GP guide to adults with Autism Spectrum Condition
(including Asperger syndrome)
Do you have patients who do not have serious mental health difficulties, yet find it hard to fit in socially? They may have an unusual social style, have few or no friends, experience anxiety or stress, and be unable to complete a college course or find stable employment.
If so, they may have Autism Spectrum Condition.
Not everyone with autism spectrum condition will have a diagnosis; in fact it’s quite common for
people with the condition to be diagnosed later in life. Many people will be unaware that they have
a form of autism.
Autism spectrum condition is a lifelong, developmental disability; it is often described
as a hidden disability, because you cannot tell that someone has the condition just
by looking at them.
Autism spectrum condition is described in both ICD-10 and DSM-IV international
If your patient list is 5,000, expect there to be between 18 and 24 people on it who
have autism spectrum condition.
People with autism spectrum condition experience difficulty in communicating
effectively with others. They often have problems making ‘appropriate’ conversation,
and sometimes seem pedantic. They may have a poor understanding of non-verbal
communication such as tone of voice, gestures and facial expressions. Some may
find it difficult to make or maintain eye contact. Many people with autism spectrum
condition desire social contact but struggle to understand the reciprocal nature of
‘typical’ social interaction, and other people’s language and humour. As a
consequence, their attempts at interaction can sometimes seem rather awkward. It
can make the person prone to teasing and isolation. Furthermore, their inability to
read people’s intentions can make them vulnerable and may mean they are taken
People with autism spectrum condition often have a need for routines. Some may
have intense, almost obsessive, interests. They may also rely heavily on other
people in their day-to-day life in a way that you might not expect, given their
apparent intelligence or independence.
Some people with autism spectrum condition can experience over- and undersensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, lights or colours.
Be aware that adults with autism spectrum condition may have learned to cover up
their problems, so signs of the condition will often be quite subtle. This is why people
can experience difficulty in getting support.
As a result of difficulties with social interaction and communication, and a lack of
support, many adults with autism spectrum condition are socially isolated and can
consequently develop mental health problems.
Questions to consider when talking to adult patients who may have Autism Spectrum
Does he or she:
Find many social situations, especially in groups, confusing (even though they
may seem OK talking one-to-one with you)?
Often find it hard to guess what other people are thinking and feeling, or why
they are laughing at a joke?
Find it difficult to make and maintain close friendships?
Have a history of problems at school or college, such as difficulties getting on
with tutors or other students? Were they teased or bullied?
Find it difficult to secure satisfactory employment or stay in work?
Have any hobbies or interests which take up a lot of their time (or had these
when they were younger)?
Get worried or annoyed about change, especially unexpected change?
Display difficulties with communication and appear to lack social intuition?
If the answer to most of these questions is yes, and your patient wishes to be
assessed, please complete the Bucks Adult Autism Diagnosis Service:
GP Referral questions
GP Referral Checklist
Email all above documents to: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you require any advice/signposting working with your patient contact
Paulette Hunn Autism Development Worker email@example.com
Information taken from National Autistic Society “A GP’s guide to adults with Asperger