A lack of social skills can exacerbate the problems faced by adolescents with autism, according to researchers at the University of California. Bullying and isolation can prove particularly problematic, often because autistic children demonstrate a highly focused interest on one thing which leads to being labelled "weird". Author of a new study by the university and the Koegel Autism Center, Robert Koegel, believes autistic children should be encouraged to explore this interest, rather than being put off by the stigma. "By involving themselves in an activity around the interest, they not only make friends but also become valued members of the group. Their specialised skill becomes a strength," he added. The total cost of caring for individuals with autism has more than tripled across the UK and the US. In Britain, the cost of care is now estimated at £34 billion, according to Autism Speaks. Find out about Barchester's support for adults and children with a wide range of Autistic spectrum conditions.