March 27th – April 2nd will be 2015′s World Autism Awareness Week and various events will be taking place across the world in recognition of this. To my mind, autism is a state of being that you cannot recognise from the outside and brings with it disabilities that are not obvious simply from looking at the person. Our society is getting better at recognising and accommodating disability but I feel very strongly that ‘invisible’ disabilities like autism, Asperger’s and ADHD are still very poorly accommodated by society. This is our opportunity to change that!
I shall proudly be wearing my onesie on Onsie Wednesday on 1st April (no, that’s not an April fool!) and I’ll be making an effort to make more people aware of autism spectrum disorders and what they are. Let’s start with some interesting facts!
- Autism comes in many forms so no two people who have a diagnosis are the same. Most now agree that autism is a spectrum rather than one distinct condition. The best description I have heard is that autism is a bit like a 100 piece jigsaw. To get a diagnosis on the spectrum, you would have 80-100 pieces of the puzzle but everyone has at least 15-20 pieces! People who have many of the pieces but not enough for a diagnosis might be considered to have an ‘asperger’s personality’.
- According to current estimates, there are about 700 000 people in the UK who have one form of autism or another. That’s one in every hundred people! (Source – The National Autistic Society)
- While many people on the autism spectrum have special interests (anything from volcanoes to Thomas the Tank Engine!), only a very small proportion (about 10%) have what society calls a ‘special talent’. That means 90% of people with a diagnosis ARE NOT like Rainman!
- Unfortunately there is an unacceptably high risk of bullying for people on the autistic spectrum. The National Autistic Society quotes a figure of over 40% of children with autism being bullied at school but I have seen much higher statistics such as 70% of people with Asperger’s Syndrome (a form of high functioning autism) experiencing bullying.
- You can’t tell that someone has autism from looking at them. It is an invisible disability. The next time you meet someone who doesn’t look at you, stands to close or seems socially awkward, please don’t dismiss them as ‘weird’, ‘rude’ or ‘arrogant’ straight off. Take time to wonder “does this person have autism?”. Next time you see a child having a full scale tantrum in a shop, don’t judge and dismiss it as poor parenting, naughtiness or spoilt behaviour. Take time to wonder “does this child have autism?”.
You will find many, many more interesting facts and statistics on the National Autistic Society’s website. Go ahead, educate yourself!