About Autism

What is autism?

Autistic Spectrum Conditions are neurological developmental conditions. They occur when atypical (unusual) brain connections lead to atypical development. These differences in the way the brain functions lead to particular challenges and abilities and unusual development. Autism affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them.

It is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all autistic people share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways. Some autistic people are able to live relatively independent lives but others may have accompanying learning disabilities and need a lifetime of specialist support. People on the autism spectrum may also experience over- or under-sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours.

Asperger syndrome is a form of autism. People with Asperger syndrome are often of average or above average intelligence. They have fewer problems with speech but may still have difficulties with understanding and processing language. 

What causes autism?

The exact cause of autism is being researched around the world but is still uncertain. It is accepted that a combination of factors - genetic and environmental - may account for changes in brain development.

Autism is not caused by a person's upbringing, their social circumstances and is not the fault of the individual with the condition.

Approximately 1 in 100 people have autism and more men than women are diagnosed.

Is there a cure?

At present, there is no 'cure' for autism. There are many strategies and techniques that can be helpful in supporting people with autism to lead full and meaningful lives, whatever their age. More details of services and agencies which exist throughout the Outer Hebrides to support people living with autism are available here.



  • More than 1 in 100 people in the UK are on the autism spectrum.
  • In Scotland, at the time of the 2011 Census, 31 712 people were known to have autism (24,490 males and 7,222 females), which is 0.6% of Scotland's population. 77.2% of those were male and 22.8% were female.
  • Of children aged 0-15 years, 17,348 were reported to have autism in Scotland, which is 1.9% at this age range.
  • For more details from the 2011 Census or to compare data by local authority or health board area click here.



  • In the Western Isles at the time of the 2011 census, 115 people were known to have autism (94 males and 21 females) which is 0.42% of the population. 82% of those were male and 18% were female.
  • Of children aged 0-15 years, 65 were reported to have autism in the Western Isles. There were 11 girls and 54 boys aged 0-15 with autism, that is 0.5% of all girls and 2.3% of all boys aged 0-15. To see more detailed data on school aged children, including those with additional support needs compared by local authority area please click here.


  • For more details of the Westerns Isles 2011 Census data, including health and housing information please click here.