Autism friendly city

It is our aim to make Bristol an autism aware and autism friendly city. Many autistic people don’t need or want formal services, but do need those around them to make small changes in their behaviour.

Part of our work is to try to make people more aware of the small things they can do to accommodate autistic people.  Take a look at the 20 minute eLearning from Portsmouth City Council to learn more about autism and how you can be more autism aware.

Support for people with autism in Bristol

We already have a range of services supporting children with autism within education, social care and health. These teams provide support into schools, into the home, a range of short breaks and programmes for families. See the Disabled Children's Services page.

The National Autistic Society (NAS) holds details of local support groups and activities for children and young people with autism.

NAS also holds details of support groups for parents and carers of people with autism, including Asperger syndrome. The Avon branch is for parents and carers of adults with autism who live and work in the Avon area of Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Bath and North East Somerset and the northern end of North Somerset.

Details of all local support groups can be found at NAS Branches in South West England.

Bristol Autism Advice Service

The service is for people aged 18 or over with autism who want or need more support. It meets every Friday afternoon at the Create Centre. This is for people with a diagnosis of autism, and is an opportunity to book a one to one session with a member of the Bristol Autism Spectrum Service team (who run this service), participate in a group and meet others.

For more information:

BASS provides a service to adults with an autism spectrum condition and the services that support them.

The key aims of the service are to help autistic people access a range of appropriate mainstream services and to improve the ability of these services to work effectively and efficiently with this client group.

Autism Act and National Strategy

The Autism Act 2009 was the first ever disability-specific law in England. The Act and subsequent 2010 strategy state the government’s plan for a society that not only accepts and understands autism, but also provides real opportunities for adults with autism to live fulfilling and rewarding lives.  

The 2010 strategy has been refreshed and an updated strategy was launched on World Autism Awareness day on 2 April 2014. Links to the original and refreshed strategies are below:

Bristol Autism Strategy

The Bristol Autism Strategy was produced with the help of autistic people and carers, as well as professionals who support and work with autistic people.

Our strategy goes beyond the requirements set out in the Autism Act and associated policy guidance, which only applies to adults. By including the needs of children in this strategy, we hope to do more to support autistic people in realising their potential at all stages of their lives.

Autism Forum

The Bristol Autism Forum oversees the implementation of the Strategy and reports to the Health and Wellbeing Board. The Bristol Autism Strategy identified the need for a Forum in which autistic people would be able to feed into and influence the ongoing implementation of the Strategy. It's the successor to the Autism Strategy Group which oversaw the development of the Strategy.

The Forum includes autistic people, carers, clinicians and practitioners from adult, children’s and transition services as well as commissioners from the council and NHS.

Terms of Reference for the Bristol Autism Forum

Autism Forum minutes

If you're interested in joining the Autism Forum, or would like to know more about the work of the Forum, please contact

What is autism?

Autism is a lifelong condition that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how a person makes sense of the world around them. The three main areas of difficulty, which all autistic people share, are known as the triad of impairments. They are difficulties with:

  • social interaction – difficulty in social relationships
  • social communication – difficulty with verbal and non-verbal communication
  • social imagination – difficulty in the area of imagination and flexibility of thought.

Autism is known as a spectrum condition, both because of the range of difficulties that affect adults with autism, and the way that these present in different people.

The about autism page on the National Autistic Society’s (NAS) website has more information.

Autism is currently thought to affect approximately one in every 100 people. With a population of approximately 433,000 Bristol’s population is likely to include over 4,000 autistic people. Current estimates suggest over half of these people will also have a learning difficulty.

Autism factsheet (pdf, 0.7 MB) (opens new window) (pdf, 701KB) (opens new window)

Diagnosing autism

Getting a diagnosis of autism can be an important first step to receiving support. It can also be a life-changing event. For adults it can explain why they have always found certain things difficult, for children it can mean getting the right support to enable them to live full and rewarding lives.

For detailed information about the process of diagnosis, for both adults and children, see all about diagnosis on the National Autistic Society’s (NAS) website.

The first step to getting a diagnosis, whether for an adult or a child, is to contact your GP. Your GP may then refer you to the BASS if you are aged 18 or over. Speak to your health visitor, GP or school if you have a child under 18.