As we write this article we are one week into Autism awareness month and we believe it’s important that people are aware of Autism which affects 1 in 50 individuals worldwide. More people than ever are receiving a diagnosis of Autism and although awareness is increasing there is still so much people do not know, that people on the spectrum and their families would like them to know. For example, did you know Autism affects boys as well as girls? Some of you may be thinking ‘well, of course!’ but it’s still widely believed that the condition only affects boys, as girls seem to be pushed aside when it comes to awareness and general understanding of the condition. Did you know I am an adult with Asperger’s (high functioning Autism) and I am writing this article to help raise awareness of a condition that not only affects me, but millions of others around the world.
Adults have Autism too, it’s not exclusive to children, which is also a common misconception. The support out there seems to center around children, and the adults are simply pushed aside and forgotten, similar to girls with Autism, but as we grow older we simply learn coping mechanisms to help us push through day-to-day and live our lives as best we know how, but we still need understanding and awareness just like the children. This leads us to our first point:
- Autism can affect anyone and is not exclusive to children, males, shy people etc. The first step of awareness is knowing Autism does NOT have a look, it can affect anyone.
- People with Autism can do anything anyone else can do with the right support. There are many successful people on the spectrum, including Scientists, Doctors, Teachers etc.
We are not rude, we simply tell it how it is without ‘beating about the bush’ as you say. The world is confusing enough without having to mince words and say something you are supposed to mean, in the hope of people understanding what you ACTUALLY mean without actually meaning it… even that sentence confused me, just say what you mean! When people assume how our condition affects us, that can disable us more than our disability itself. ‘Oh, I’m not going to talk to her because she has Autism and she doesn’t want to talk’ – ‘let’s be careful how we act around him, he has Autism, he may be offended – obviously more so than you – *facepalm*’ this leads us to our next point:
3. Autism is a spectrum which means we are all different. Some of us are introverted, some of us our extroverted, some of us have food ‘issues’ some of us do not. In order to get to know how the Autism affects the person it is important to actually get to know the person.
4. Talk about Autism. If you want people to know what the condition is, and how it affects people, start talking about Autism. Even if you do not have a great deal of knowledge on it perhaps sharing this information on the many social media pages/websites… news travels fast and people will start becoming more understanding of people that are different.
5. Inclusion. If you know someone with Autism make sure you include them, even if you think they are going to say ‘no’ – still include them as it’s the thought that counts. Imagine how we are going to feel if you include everyone else, but we don’t get an invite. We may not be able to verbally tell you we are grateful but we are!
6. Verbal communication is not the only way to communicate, and that’s okay. Personally, I have had people refer to me as ‘stupid’ and ‘anti-social’ due to the fact I’m not that talkative, but that’s not the case. I’m very goal focused (like a lot of people on the spectrum, but remember, not all) so when committing to a task I like to give it my all, and verbal communication not only distracts me, but it’s a task all on its own. Verbal communication may not be as easy for us as it is for some of you.
At this stage you should know a little bit about Autism, is that fair to say? Reading the points above and memorising them should provide you with a basic knowledge of the condition, but as it’s Autism awareness month let’s take it further, and start talking about our feelings, and how we perceive the world. Many people still believe those with Autism do not have empathy due to several factors, such as not be able to verbally communicate our feelings, coming out with blunt statements, and not showing our emotions ie crying during sad situations, laughing during happy ones. We tend to have more a logical approach which other people can see, but we definitely feel empathy, it’s there and it’s really upsetting when people claim we do not ‘feel’ – which ties in with inclusion (point 5) – include the entire human race as we are people too, just like you!
Those with Autism/Asperger’s Syndrome have average/high intelligence which is of course a positive, and that’s something we would like to empathise on. There are just as many positives with Autism as there are negatives, and although there is not enough space to include all of those today, it is something we will consider publishing later on this month for Autism awareness month. Let’s continue on to our next couple of points:
7. People with Autism are different and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Being different is beautiful, and without sugarcoating it, our greatest disability is people’s ignorance towards us. There are of course many negatives that come along with the condition such as meltdowns and sensory overloads, but we can contribute so much to the world, we just need the right opportunities.
8. If you see someone wearing headphones in public, shouting/becoming irritable, moving in an ‘unusual’ way just accept it, and do not make the situation worse by making an issue out of it or providing rude stares. Sometimes we wear headphones because we are unable to filter out sounds and it helps to calm us by having that one sound we can focus on…. we can become stressed at not being able to verbally communicate effectively (again this does not apply to everyone) that we express that by using anger, or sadness (depression, anxiety), rude stares just does not help anyone.
Learning Links is a charity that supports people by helping them get from where they are to where they want to be, and in order to do this we need to be Autism aware. Although our charity does not solely focus on Autism we believe it is important for all employers, and members of the public to be aware of the condition and the contributions people with it can provide. We do not shy away from difference here at Learning Links and instead we embrace it and accept people for who they are, by embracing their strengths and focusing on what they can do, not what they can’t. Our charity is split into four pillars, and they are: health, learn, families, and furnish (for more information on this and how each pillar helps the community please check out our website).
9. You can help with awareness by befriending a person with Autism, as we can be incredibly loyal, honest, and dependable which are amazing traits to building and maintaining a lasting friendship. If we are unhappy with you, we will tell you and if we are happy with you we will also tell you. If that doesn’t make a good friend I don’t know what does.
10. It may take us a little longer to process information so please repeat what you said calmly. If we are provided with too much information we may become overloaded and have a sensory overload, and experience depression etc. Have patience, and understand our brain works differently than yours. An X-Box game will not play in a PS4 and vise versa, but it does not mean they are broken.
Our ability to verbally communicate can also vary depending on our current setting as some people with Autism feel more chatty outside of home, whereas when they arrive home they may say next to nothing and appear snappy/non-verbal… this can make it difficult especially when persuading other people to see your child/adult is ‘different’. This is because home is our ‘safe place’ and we can totally be ourselves whereas in public we imitate other people, and work so hard to communicate effectively so people don’t find us weird but it’s really difficult. The best way to describe this is as follows:
‘Imagine a social battery in your mind. At 100% we can communicate just as effectively as you, at 50% we may respond with one word answers and appear more ‘snappy’ but at 0% it is important you leave us alone as we need to recharge our battery back up to 100% for when we are next in a social setting. Throughout the day our battery is slowly decreasing, more and more, whereas at home we really don’t want to talk, it’s at 0%… we can’t talk… it’s not where we don’t want to. It is important to find the signals of the battery reaching 0% for when we are unable to tell you. Signs include: putting headphones in, spacing out, appearing more quiet than usual.’
Learning Links is Autism aware, are you?
If you can share this article to your contacts on Facebook/Twitter and anywhere else you can think of that would be fantastic as you would be raising some much needed awareness of Autism. Thank you for reading.