What is Autism?


Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others.

Autistic people see, hear and feel the world differently to other people. If you are autistic, you are autistic for life; autism is not an illness or disease and cannot be 'cured'. Often people feel being autistic is a fundamental aspect of their identity.

Autism is a spectrum condition. All autistic people share certain difficulties, but being autistic will affect them in different ways. Some autistic people also have learning disabilities, mental health issues or other conditions, meaning people need different levels of support. All people on the autism spectrum learn and develop. With the right sort of support, all can be helped to live a more fulfilling life of their own choosing.


National Autistic Society. 2018. What is autism? (ONLINE) Available at: (Accessed 18 November 2018)


Foxfield School were awarded Autism Accreditation by The National Autistic Society, the UK’s leading charity for people on the autism spectrum and their families. The award was given in recognition of the school’s excellent autism practice. The following pages will explore some of the important supports that Foxfield provide in their extensive autism practice.

Follow the link below to learn more about autism...




Attention Autism is an intervention programme created by Gina Davies, specialist speech and language therapist. The Attention Autism programme targets the teaching of natural and spontaneous communication, attention and social interaction skills through the use of visually based and highly motivating activities. 
Gina's primary focus of Attention Autism sessions is that they are fun and "offer an irresistible invitation to learn"!
The Aims of Attention Autism

As well as the ultimate goal of developing natural and spontaneous communication skills, there are several other aims that Attention Autism strives to achieve. These include:

  1. To engage attention.
  2. To improve joint attention.
  3. To develop shared enjoyment in group activities.
  4. To increase attention in adult-led activities.
  5. To encourage spontaneous interaction in a natural group setting.
  6. To increase non-verbal and verbal communication through commentary.
  7. To build a wealth and depth of vocabulary.
  8. Most importantly, to have fun
Please see the following document for a more in depth explanation of Attention Autism and how to implement it at home...
Causes of Autism
"The causes of autism are still being looked into. Many experts believe that there isn't one specific 'cause', and that there are genetic factors. We are always looking to understand more about autism, and welcome any research in this area."
There is strong evidence to suggest that autism can be caused by a variety of physical factors, all of which affect brain development – it is not due to emotional deprivation or the way a person has been brought up. Evidence suggests that autism may be genetic. Scientists have been attempting to identify which genes might be implicated in autism for some years. Autism is likely to have multiple genes responsible rather than a single gene. 
There is no link between autism and vaccines. So how did the idea that vaccines play a role get started? Much of the blame lies with a study published in 1998 that suggested that the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine, or infection with the naturally occurring measles virus itself, might cause autism. Since then, numerous scientific studies have shown that there is no link between vaccines — or any of their ingredients — and autism. And the research used in that study was found to be false, the doctor who wrote it lost his medical license, and the medical journal that published it retracted the paper.
Common Difficulties

Social communication

Autistic people have difficulties with interpreting both verbal and non-verbal language like gestures or tone of voice. Many have a very literal understanding of language, and think people always mean exactly what they say. They may find it difficult to use or understand:

  • facial expressions
  • tone of voice
  • jokes and sarcasm.

Some may not speak, or have fairly limited speech. They will often understand more of what other people say to them than they are able to express, yet may struggle with vagueness or abstract concepts. Some autistic people benefit from using, or prefer to use, alternative means of communication, such as sign language or visual symbols. Some are able to communicate very effectively without speech.

Others have good language skills, but they may still find it hard to understand the expectations of others within conversations, perhaps repeating what the other person has just said (this is called echolalia) or talking at length about their own interests. 

It often helps to speak in a clear, consistent way and to give autistic people plenty of time to process what has been said to them.


Social interaction

Autistic people often have difficulty 'reading' other people - recognising or understanding others' feelings and intentions - and expressing their own emotions. This can make it very hard for them to navigate the social world. They may:

  • appear to be insensitive
  • seek out time alone when overloaded by other people
  • not seek comfort from other people
  • appear to behave 'strangely' or in a way thought to be socially inappropriate.

Autistic people may find it hard to form friendships. Some may want to interact with other people and make friends, but may be unsure how to go about it.


Sensory Sensitivity 

Autistic people may also experience over or under sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light, colours, temperatures or pain. For example, they may find certain background sounds, which other people ignore or block out, unbearably loud or distracting. This can cause anxiety or even physical pain. Or they may be fascinated by lights or spinning objects.


Emotional regulation 

Many autistic people have difficulty with regulating their own emotional state or may have learnt a specific strategy that may not be deemed socially acceptable.  It is important for the autistic person to have the ability to maintain a well-regulated emotional state to cope with everyday stress, and to be most available for communication and interaction. If they don't this can lead to anxiety, which may result in a 'melt down'. A factor to consider when it comes to emotional regulation is that the autistic young person may have sensory differences. They may be over-sensitive to some senses, under-sensitive to others and often a combination of both.

For example, for someone who is over-sensitive to touch and sound, people brushing past them and a loud announcement at a train station could cause pain and sensory overload, leading to a meltdown. 



Commonly Used Phrases


Understanding the vast amount of acronyms and phrases in special education can be daunting, here are some commonly used phrases and acronyms explained...

AAC- augmentative and alternative communication

PECS- picture exchange communication system 

PODD- pragmatic organisation dynamic display

ASC- autism spectrum condition

CIN- child in need 

LAC- looked after child 

SCERTS- social communication, emotional regulation, transactional supports

SLD- severe learning difficulties 

MLD- moderate learning difficulties 

SPLD- specific learning difficulties 

PDA- pathological demand avoidance 

OCD- obsessive compulsive disorder 

PLG - Personalised Learning Goal
EfL - Evidence for Learning
SCRUFFY Targets - Student-led, Creative, Relevant, Unspecified, Fun, For, Youngsters
Myths & Facts

Although over 700,000 people in the UK are autistic (more than 1 in 100 people), false and often negative perceptions about the condition are commonplace.

This lack of understanding can make it difficult for people on the autism spectrum to have their condition recognised and to access the support they need. Misconceptions can lead to some autistic people feeling isolated and alone. In extreme cases, it can also lead to abuse and bullying.


Autism affects more than 1 in 100 people – fact. Over 700,000 people in UK are autistic, which means that 2.8m people have a relative on the autism spectrum.


People tend to 'grow out' of autism in adulthood – myth. It's a lifelong condition – autistic children become autistic adults.


Autism affects both boys and girls – fact. There is a popular misconception that autism is simply a male condition. This is false.


Some autistic people don't speak – fact. Some autistic people are non-verbal and communicate through other means. However, autism is a spectrum condition, so everyone’s autism is different.


Autism is a mental health problem – myth. Autism is a developmental disability. It’s a difference in how your brain works. Autistic people can have good mental health, or experience mental health problems, just like anyone else.


All autistic people are geniuses – myth. Just under half of all people with an autism diagnosis also have a learning disability. Others have an IQ in the average to above average range. 'Savant' abilities like extraordinary memory are rare.


Everyone is a bit autistic – myth. While everyone might recognise some autistic traits or behaviours in people they know, to be diagnosed with autism, a person must consistently display behaviours across all the different areas of the condition. Just having a fondness for routines, a good memory or being shy doesn’t make a person 'a bit autistic'.


National Autistic Society. 2019. Autism facts and history? (ONLINE) Available at: (Accessed 22 May 2019)



What do you know about autism? 
Many people have lots of different ideas of what autism is and how it affects people. But what is the picture right now in the world of autism?
Follow the link and complete the quiz 
What is SCERTS?


SCERTS is an assessment framework to support the development of core difficulties associated with autism spectrum condition. It is an evidence based framework which includes a coordinated assessment process that helps measure the child’s progress, and determine the necessary supports to be used by the child’s social partners (educators, peers and family members).


The acronym SCERTS stands for Social Communication, Emotional Regulation and Transactional Support.


Social Communication (SC): The ability to feel effective and engage successfully in reciprocal interaction and conversation, to be a competent communicator and be an active participant in social activities and social relationships. The two subcategories within Social Communication are Joint Attention and Symbol Use.


Emotional Regulation (ER): the ability to regulate emotional arousal so that the child can adapt to and cope with inevitable and uniquely individual daily challenges. These are subcategorised into Mutual Regulation and Self-regulation.


Transactional Support (TS): Adjusting Learning Supports and Interpersonal Supports which create a positive learning environment and promote positive learning outcomes.


There are also 3 levels where people of differing abilities can benefit from SCERTS, and these are called Partner Stages: These are called; Social Partner, Language Partner and a Conversational Partner. A thorough assessment with each individual is conducted and their partner stage is then determined.


SCERTS can be used with children and older individuals across a range of developmental abilities, including nonverbal and verbal individuals. It is a lifespan model that can be used from an initial diagnosis, throughout the school years, and beyond.

©2007 by Barry M. Prizant, Amy M. Wetherby, Emily Rubin, & Amy C. Laurent. All rights reserved.


Currently at Foxfield School there are 5 classes that are ‘SCERTS’ classes and are following the SCERTS model.


For more information on SCERTS follow the link below.