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Autism Spectrum Disorder: Building a Supportive Environment for Success

What is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder is part of a broader neurodivergent condition which affects how people communicate and interact with the world. According to Irish Society for Autism, they estimate that 1 in 65 individuals of a school age have been diagnosed with autism .[1]

Some of the common characteristics that people diagnosed with autism share include differences in:

  • Communication style,
  • Challenges with social interactions and social situations,
  • Sensory difficulties,
  • And being highly focused.

Other challenges can also include repetitive behaviours and anxiety.

It's important to note that autism spectrum disorder is exactly that – a spectrum (think of the autism spectrum like a colour spectrum wheel, rather than a single line) – so individual experiences and characteristics will vary. It’s also important to note that autism in girls and women can present differently to the clinical presentation in boys and men, which can make it more challenging for females to get diagnosed.[2] Females with autism often present their condition in a more subtle way and mask the symptoms, which can result in missed diagnoses.


Why is Autism Awareness Day important?

Autism Awareness Day is important because as we mentioned earlier, it’s a whole spectrum, and it can be more difficult to diagnose in females, meaning it's a very misunderstood condition with individuals still facing a lot of stigma and not enough support.

Awareness days can help reduce that stigma and increase the public’s understanding of the condition. It can help promote acceptance and advocate for the rights of autistic people to ensure they have the same opportunities to thrive – whether that’s in education, employment, housing, or the ability to enjoy a fulfilling social life.

Raising awareness of autism will also help to promote more research and resources, which can result in a faster diagnosis and improved support for autistic individuals and their families.


Common traits for people diagnosed with autism.

Communication and social interaction

People with autism often have difficulties with social communication and interaction, as they can have difficulty reading verbal and non-verbal cues like gestures or tone of voice. They also might take things literally and not understand abstract concepts like sarcasm. Some individuals are non-verbal or have limited speech themselves and may need extra time to process information or answer questions.

Challenges with social interaction and reading people, recognising their feelings and intentions as well as expressing their own emotions can make it harder for people with autism to be social. They may struggle to form friendships, and express themselves in unconventional ways that stray from the social norm, which can be interpreted as insensitive by neurotypical people.

Highly focused interests

Autistic individuals can have very intense, highly focused interest and hobbies. Just like neurotypical people, autistic individuals gain a lot of joy from pursuing their interests and knowing as much as possible about their hobby. This can help them do very well academically.


Repetitive behaviours and routines

People with autism interact with the world differently than others, which can make the world seem confusing and unpredictable to them. Repetitive behaviours and routines offer comfort because they know what they can expect. For example, they may prefer to take the same route to school/work every day, wear the same outfits or eat the same foods. Changes to their routines can be very distressing, so it's important to help them prepare for and deal with change more successfully.


Sensory challenges

Individuals with autism may experience under or over-sensitivity to the different senses: sound, sight, touch, smell etc. For example, many autistic people find busy, loud places, such as shopping centres, to be overwhelming which can cause them distress and anxiety. However, there are many adjustments which can help with sensory challenges.


How to address challenges of autism and create an environment for success

Addressing sensory challenges

Create spaces which will help your loved one deal with sensory sensitivities the best they can. This can include using dimmable lights, calming colours, reducing clutter, and finding organisation solutions so that the individual with autism doesn’t get overwhelmed and can find all their things easily.

Noise-cancelling headphones as well as using designated quiet areas or going to places during designated quiet times can be beneficial.


The importance of routines

Routines can be very important for many autistic individuals. Using things like calendars, checklists and organisation tools can be very beneficial. HaloCare’s HaloPad has a designated calendar function to help keep track of important appointments, meetings etc. which the individual’s Circle of Care will also have shared access to.



Communication can be a struggle for people with autism, so it’s important they feel supported when communicating and can develop their social skills in an environment they feel safe in. Dedicating extra time to communicate with an autistic person, being face-to-face and using gestures and visual supports can all help in developing their social skills.

HaloCare’s HaloPad has a built-in video call platform that allows video communication with friends, family and HaloCare staff (as well as medical professionals) which can help make communication easier for those with autism or anyone who needs additional support.


Useful resources:

More information for friends and family of people diagnosed with autism:

As I Am – Ireland’s Autism Charity


Resources for better understanding autism, getting diagnosis, post-diagnosis support, training, events and more.

Irish Society for Autism


Latest research, resources and news

Autism UK


In-depth guidance and practical support, for example a guide on understanding and developing communication: https://www.autism.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/topics/communication/understanding-and-developing-communication



[1] https://autism.ie/information/faq/autism/

[2] https://doi.org/10.25419/rcsi.c.6800280.v1 https://repository.rcsi.com/articles/journal_contribution/Gender_discrepancies_in_the_diagnosis_of_autism/23986272


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