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The core features of autism are universal to all autistic people. Of course, no two autistic people are the same but you can expect to see these areas of challenge, to some extent in all autistic people.

Autism Support

The following core features of autism are developed through the parent - child guiding relationship in the RDI programme. 


The ability to share, integrate feelings, intended actions, memories, predictions, plans, ideas, perspectives, thoughts and creative productions


A representation we form of an event in our lives, strongly anchored by an emotional appraisal of that episode.


Ability to integrate different ideas and perspectives to find the best fit, good enough solution to real life problems.


Sense of own personality and identity and how your actions and thoughts have an impact on others.  This needs constant monitoring and evaluation to achieve greater emotional awareness and control of self.


Dynamic intelligence is our ability to manage day to day, changing and uncertain events.  It requires continuous evaluation of change.


Autism is a lifelong neurological condition where the autistic person’s brain takes perceives and processes information differently to a non-autistic brain. It is important to recognise that no two people will display the same profile with autism, although there may be similarities everyone is different. There are some universal core features of autism that define the challenges of autism. Please know that the brain has the ability to learn and grow and so these core features can be developed to improve quality of life.

Many autistic people experience sensory overload where it’s all too much.

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is actually a separate diagnosis to autism, but it is highly co-occurring to autism. When someone is experiencing a sensory overload (autistic or not), it is usually because there is too much stimulation coming in to process that the person feels overwhelmed. What the individual’s body then does with that is dependent on what they need and is unique to that person; it may look like a shutdown, a meltdown, withdrawal, blocking out other stimulation e.g. humming, hands over ears or other self-stimulatory movements such as some of the stereotypical behaviours associated with autism like rocking, spinning, jumping, pacing etc.

Autism is not caused by poor parenting.

It is a very unhelpful myth that autism is caused by poor parenting. Autistic people are not just ‘being naughty’ and need more discipline. When people say this they do not have an understanding of autism. From my experience, most parents with autistic children and doing everything they can to support and help their development. Many parents have to learn specific guiding tools to help their autistic child to access the typical developmental opportunities that non-autistic children are able to do so easily.

Autism isn’t always visible.

Autism looks different for each individual. Autism is a spectrum which means the severity can vary vastly and for some it is much less visible to the untrained eye. Many autistic people are good at ‘masking’ their challenges throughout the day to fit in. However, this takes a huge amount of energy and effort and can leave them drained at the end of the day.

Autism is not a disability, it’s different abilities.

Whilst there are universal core features of autism, every individual will have their own unique strengths too. Please note: this does not mean that every autistic person has a savant ability (like Rainman!) Autism can be considered as an information processing difference; the way that information is perceived and processed is different to a non-autistic brain. There are many perspectives that an autistic person brings to this world.

Unpredictable and uncertain situations can cause stress for autistic people.

One of the universal core features of autism is a difficulty processing and accepting unpredictable and uncertain situations, managing multiple options and decision making (collectively this is referred to as dynamic intelligence). An overwhelm of dynamic situations (the threshold of this will vary for each person) can result in stress, shut down or more likely a need for sameness, repetition or familiarity. Whilst this will help you understand the trigger for this response please know that it is possible to gradually develop dynamic intelligence through the guiding relationship in safe experiences.

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