As World Autism Awareness Week draws to a close today (Monday 27th March – 2nd April) I get to wonder, how many more people understand, not only what the Autistic Spectrum is and what aspect it covers, or indeed how very complex this condition is.
The National Autistic Society do a great job supporting those on the Autistic spectrum, but even they can only generalise in the hope, I find, that they can signpost you in the correct direction for more individual support. No two people are alike and this in itself is a difficult concept to grasp.
Over the week, I have listened to several individuals who are billed as ‘having Autism’ and they are happily being interviewed, explaining how they have written books, they are presenters, lecturers, own a company or are on the board of a company and guide others, and I have to say, I find this gives the general public a very simplistic, and possibly a ‘so-what’ view of what it’s like to have Autism and that those living a life with Autism which leaves you, uncommunicative, or terrified about leaving the house due to the level of anxiety, the need for sensory stimulation, or avoidance, having to wear headphones to block out the noise etc. continually appears to be ignored by the mainstream news channels.
The number of people I meet who ask my son, ‘what do you excel at?’ because they have seen news articles that show people with Autism have computing skills, or numeracy skills, or are a musical genius etc – No, I don’t feel that Autism is a condition that is getting understood in any meaningful way. I’m tempted to reply to these people … because my son can’t (uncommunicative) … that we battle to even get him out of the house because he’s afraid of the outdoors and where he excels is actually passing over the threshold of the house …. but I decline, as I need to stay more positive and just smile politely and explain it remains under development.
Many people with Autism can do what these interviewees can and in some cases more and I am delighted for them. If you meet someone with Autism or a parent or carer of someone with Autism, can I ask, don’t assume they are the same as they have seen on TV but try and understand the complexity of that person and how both their and their families lives are affected, I can virtually guarantee you will get a very different view of what Autism is all about. And you never know, you may be able to offer support yourself in some way that opens doors to that individual in simple ways, but ways that allow them to access this great world just a little bit more.