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What is autism?

Autism is a developmental disability that affects how a person relates to and communicates with other people, as well as how they make sense of the world around them.

It is a spectrum condition, which means that although all people with autism have certain difficulties in common, the symptoms and characteristics can occur in a wide variety of combinations and range from mild to severe.

All people with autism share three main areas of difficulty, which are known as a 'triad of impairments'. These are:-

1) Difficulties with social communication

- Individuals can have difficulties with both verbal and non-verbal language (such as body language). Some may have very limited speech or not speak at all, whilst others may have good language skills but still find it hard to understand the back-and-forth nature of conversations.

2) Difficulties with social interaction

- People with autism can find it hard to recognise or understand other people's emotions and feelings, and to express their own. This can make it more difficult for them to fit in socially.

3) Difficulties with social imagination

- 'Social imagination' is a skill which allows us to understand and predict other people's behaviour, to make sense of abstract ideas and to imagine situations outside our usual daily routine. This means that people with Autism may find it difficult to predict how others might behave and to cope with changes to their routine. 

In addition to these three main areas of difficulty, people with autism may also experience:-

  • Over- or under-sensitivity to sensory information (including sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours)

  • Repetitive movements, such as hand-flapping or spinning

  • A degree of learning disabilities

  • A particular area, or areas, of special interest, which can be intensely focused


More information

Around 1 in 100 people in the UK have an Autistic Spectrum Condition. It is present in people from all backgrounds and affects around four times as many males as females.

The disorder does not only affect childhood, but is a lifelong condition; so children with Autism will grow up to be adults with Autism. However, this does not necessarily mean that the patterns of behaviour present in childhood will never change; as it is a developmental disability which affects all areas of development, symptoms can therefore be different at different ages as the child develops. Some features may not become apparent until later in development, whilst others can disappear with time.

All people with an Autistic Spectrum Condition are unique and have their own individual skills and abilities, as well as areas of difficulty. Some people with autism are able to live relatively independent lives, while others may need a lifetime of specialist support.

In Camden, some of our support programmes for parents include EarlyBird and Cygnet.

Useful websites

  • Autism services directory - Run by the National Autistic Society, this portal lists thousands of organisations and other resources across the UK.
  • Autism and Aspergers support - Part of NHS Choices. An online directory with details about services, schools, support groups, training courses, residential and day services and more.
  • Autism connect service providers - Run by the Autism Alliance, a directory of service providers within the UK with the ability for users to rate their autism friendliness.

The Camden Autism Partnership Board

The Autism Partnership Board in Camden was set up in 2017, with the aim to enable a more strategic approach to developing better outcomes for people with autism, and to identify local priorities and develop a detailed plan. The overall responsibility of the Board is to oversee delivery of the Camden’s Plan for People with Autism, 2016-2021 which can be found here.

The Board is chaired by the Director of Adult Social Care in Camden Council. It has representatives from a wide range of local organisations and agencies including health, social care, local employers, the police and education.

The Board meets 3 times per year . The role of the Board is strategic and advisory, with a number of task and finish groups sitting underneath with a more operational role taking forward the agreed priorities.

For more information about the Autism Partnership Board please contact:  Rachael Bond, Commissioning Manager, at

If you are a camden parent/ carer and would like to sit on the board please contact Sandra Soteriou, Engagement Lead, at

World Autism Awareness Week - 30 March - 5 April 2020

Dear All,

We were so pleased to have come together on 11th March 2020 at Camden’s Autism Partnership Board to explore ways to promote autism awareness across the ages within the local authority and local community.

It was so inspiring to hear from those with lived experience about ways that autism awareness and autism good practice are being promoted as well as coming together to think about how we can all make autism good practice everyone’s business.

During Camden’s recent Autism Partnership Board, inspirational presentations focused on an autism friendly guide to the Arsenal Football club which has been inspired and driven by a Camden child and parent, the support that the Autism Hub and ALAG (Asperger London Area Group) provide locally, the experience of a Camden Supported Intern at GOSH and  students from Acland Burghley School talking about their autism awareness programme. Information was also shared about the Brain in Hand mobile app and London borough of Camden’s work, as an employer, around autism and neurodiversity awareness.

Whilst we are unfortunately not able to undertake some of our original plans this World Autism Awareness Week, we continue to celebrate autism, promote awareness and will be in touch about future plans.

The following information includes:

  • A few links to information and resources.
  • The Autism Hub and ALAG have kindly put together the next piece that is attached below.
  • If you scroll further below there is information on Camden’s Skype autism lunch and learn session that you can sign up for via Camden’s Learning & Development.



World Autism Awareness Week

Would you like to sign up to Camden’s Skype lunch and learn - what it means to be autistic?

There are two sessions taking place on 1st and 2nd April 2020 12:00 - 13:00. (ACCESSIBLE NOW THROUGH SKYPE). The details are below.

Unfortunately due to the current situation, other events are currently on hold but we will be in touch in the near future.


World Autism Awareness Week

Please see Camden’s plan for people with autism (2016-2021). 

Here is a link to the National Autistic Society’s 'What is autism?' film.

The National Autistic Society website has information and resources about the Coronoavirus and a range of autism friendly tips which can be accessed via this LINK.

Please see the National Autistic Society’s Coronavirus: Top tips for autistic people.

Please see the National Autistic Society’s Coronavirus: Top tips for families.


If you are looking for a social story to help explain the Coronavirus, the National Autistic Society have a link to a social story created by Carol Gray which can be accessed via this LINK.

The Universities of Oxford and Reading (UK) have put together a resource pack to support children and young people with worries in relation to the current climate where further social stories, comic strips and practical advice is provided.

The National Autistic Society also have a link to Mencap’s EasyRead version of its advice regarding the Coronavirus which can be accessed via this LINK.


The National Autistic Society provide information about NICE clarifying how guidelines on critical care applies to autistic people via this LINK.


The work of the Autism Hub and ALAG (Asperger London Area Group)


There are over 1000 autistic adults without a learning disability in Camden and Islington each who, without support, easily become vulnerable, lonely and isolated, and excluded from society. Their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing are frequently significantly negatively impacted by this exclusion from society.


In light of this, the Autism Hub which works with autistic adults without learning disability who live in the London boroughs of Camden or Islington was set up.


The Autism Hub is a free service offering information, advice, peer support, counselling, a drop-in support, workshops, advocacy and signposting. It provides expert advice, information and invaluable support not only for our service users, but also their families, carers, employers and other professionals.


The Autism Hub also offers autism training sessions for professionals. Examples of the Hub’s work include post-diagnosis support with our health partner, the Camden and Islington Adult Autism Diagnostic and Consultation Service (C&I AADCS), welfare benefits support and advocacy, support with housing issues, counselling with specialist autism counsellors, support and advocacy with mental health teams, and liaising with employers.


The Autism Hub is a user-led charity and most of the volunteers are autistic themselves.


The Hub grew out of ALAG (Asperger London Area Group). ALAG is the umbrella organisation for the Autism Hub. ALAG is a pan-London community organisation working in partnership with local authorities and the voluntary sector. It provides valuable social and emotional support to autistic adults without a learning disability in the Greater London area. ALAG also offers information, advice and guidance to its members and supports them to access services and engage in their community. Our members say they feel supported, understood and accepted as a result of their involvement with ALAG.


ALAG holds monthly meetings, providing peer support with opportunities to discuss common issues as well as access to researchers and specialist speakers who give talks at the meetings. We also do 1:1 casework sessions with ALAG members, organise social events (e.g. museum visits, pub nights, nature walks, theatre visits and more), ran a peer support project funded by the Arsenal Foundation and held our first conference in October 2019 to celebrate five years as an independent registered charity.


However, now that the Coronavirus pandemic has struck, we very sadly had to cancel our ALAG meetings and socials as well as the weekly sessions at the Autism Hub until further notice. Nevertheless, we are keeping in touch with our service users and are supporting them remotely by phone, email and text. We are providing telephone counselling, are still doing casework and are generally seeking to reassure people in these difficult times.


This is, of course, a very difficult time for everybody – autistic or not. At the same time, many autistic people face additional challenges. For instance, many already struggle with loneliness and isolation. With the pandemic, they are at an increased risk of further isolation and a lack of a support network. ALAG and the Autism Hub are staying in touch by phone or email with those who feel lonely and isolated and with those who are scared. Fear of uncertainty and a need for routine also tend to be important features in autism. This means that, in these uncertain times, autistic people struggle more than most non-autistic people with changes to or loss of their routines and fear about the future. They might already suffer financial hardship and really worry how they will weather this crisis. Other worries relating to day-to-day living include ongoing issues, such as housing issues, problems around benefits and worries that are new due to the Coronavirus, such as how to do the laundry if one doesn’t have a washing machine and needs to rely on the laundromat in times of having to self-isolate. Shopping can be overwhelming at the best of times for some autistic people, but in this climate there maybe even more challenges.


Of course, none of these worries and difficulties are exclusive to autistic individuals. Nevertheless, the changes and uncertainty are bound to hit them particularly hard and increase the high levels of anxiety most individuals already experience. In the telephone counselling our service users are able to explore the emotional implications this crisis has for them and the telephone casework sessions address the more practical ongoing problems like benefits and housing issues. In addition, our email support allows people to tell us how they feel or ask for help, which we give where we can. Through the support we offer, ALAG and the Autism Hub become important lifelines for many of our service users and, indeed, volunteers both in normal time and in this extraordinary situation. If you would like to know more about the work of the Hub and of ALAG please visit their websites: and

Autism Hub March 2020


Camden’s lunch and learn - what it means to be autistic - 1st and 2nd April 2020 12:00 - 13:00 AVAILABLE TO ATTEND THROUGH SKYPE

What does this event cover: Why is it important to understand and value neurodiversity?

  • Cognitive Differences: Ways in which autistic brains function differently, including interactive activities designed to create empathy for sensory overload, executive function and detail orientation.
  • Tackling the issue: Tips and ideas employees can take away to help improve the workplace experience for those with autism.
  • Lived Experience: An opportunity to hear from neurodiverse colleagues in Camden about their experiences.
  • Q&A

About Nick Heckscher – Speaker: Nick has spent more than 20 years supporting public and private sector organisations with recruitment challenges.  His recent past has been spent looking at raising awareness of the business benefits of a neurodiverse workforce and the resultant cultural and procedural changes that employers need to make, to reap the rewards of cognitive diversity.   

Nick identifies as autistic.

Sign up as normal via the L&D hub link here and you will be sent a skype meeting diary invitation.


If you are a member of the Camden Autism Partnership Board and not a Camden employee, please email the inbox with your email address and full name so that an account can be opened.  Your confirmation email will have the skype link attached for the session.


Please be aware that sometimes the connection can be problematic for some people according to the broadband being used. 



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