There has been a huge increase in the number of people being referred to be assessed for neurodiversity conditions such as autism over recent years. In north Wales new reported cases across the health board area have gone up from about 200 to 400 a month since the Covid pandemic.

Children and adults are waiting before getting a diagnosis and the support that they need as the health board has not been able to increase capacity in line with demand, the Local Democracy Service reported. Dr Nick Lyons of Betsi Cadwaladr UHB said that they are not alone in this increase in demand and that it is something the NHS is experiencing across the UK.

According to think tank Nuffield Trust the rise in referrals is likely down to greater awareness of the condition as well as changing social attitudes. According to the National Autistic Society it is estimated that around one in 100 people are autistic but the figure is likely higher than this and the charity believes more research is needed to establish this. Try WalesOnline Premium for FREE by clicking here for no ads, fun puzzles, and brilliant new features.

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The signs of autism in adults

According to the NHS common signs of autism in adults include:

  • Finding it difficult to comprehend others' emotions or thoughts.
  • Experiencing high levels of anxiety in social settings.
  • Struggling to make friendships or preferring solitude.
  • Appearing blunt, discourteous, or disinterested without intending to be so.
  • Having trouble expressing personal feelings.
  • Interpreting things extremely literally – for instance not comprehending phrases like "break a leg" or sarcasm.
  • Adhering to a rigid daily routine and becoming highly distressed when it is altered.
  • Not understanding social "rules" such as not talking over people.

  • Liking to plan things carefully before doing them.

  • Having a very keen interest in certain subjects or activities.

  • Noticing small details, patterns, smells, or sounds that others do not.

  • Getting too close to other people or getting very upset if someone touches or gets too close to you.

  • Avoiding eye contact.

Autism in women

Autistic women may be more likely to mask their signs of autism in order to "fit in". They do this by copying people who do not have autism. But some signs of autism in women may be:

  • being quieter and hiding their feelings.
  • appearing to cope better with social situations.
  • showing fewer signs of repetitive behaviours.

Autism in children

According to the NHS the signs of autism in young children include:

  • not responding when their name is called.
  • avoiding making eye contact.
  • not smiling when they are smiled at.
  • getting upset at certain tastes, smells, and sounds.
  • repetitive movements: flapping hands, flicking fingers, or rocking their body.
  • not doing much role play play.
  • repeating the same phrases.

Autism in teens

In older children or teens the signs could include:

  • not fully understanding what others are thinking or feeling.
  • having unusual speech like repeating phrases or talking 'at' people.
  • needing a strict daily routine and getting upset if it changes.
  • taking a keen interest in a particular subject or activity.
  • getting upset if asked to do something.
  • finding it hard to make friends or preferring to be alone.
  • taking things literally.
  • finding it hard to talk about feelings.