Autism Awareness – Understanding and Supporting those on the Spectrum


Autism Awareness – Understanding and Supporting those on the Spectrum

March 27-April 2 is recognised as World Autism Acceptance Week: a time to increase understanding and support for individuals with autism and their families and support networks. Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC), is a complex developmental condition that’s caused by differences in the brain. It can affect communication, social interactions, and behaviour. 

Autism Characteristics

Examples of characteristics that affect social communication and interaction include:

  • Avoids or does not keep eye contact
  • May only talk about specific interests
  • Lack of understanding around sarcasm
  • Understanding of language being very literal
  • Echolalia – repeating words or phrases that are heard

Autism Behaviours

Examples of behaviours seen in those with autism include:

  • Stimming – (self-stimulatory behaviours) are those that are repetitive movements or noises. This may include hand-flapping, finger mannerisms or rocking.
  • PICA – putting non-edible items into their mouths
  • Struggling to sleep or maintain a sleep schedule

Autism Diagnosis and Awareness

Signs of autism usually appear by age 2 or 3. Some associated-development delays can appear even earlier, and often, autism can be diagnosed as early as 18 months.

Research has shown that early intervention leads to positive outcomes later in life for autistic people. An estimated 700,000 people in the UK have been diagnosed with Autism, making it a growing concern for families and communities.

Despite its prevalence, there is still much misunderstanding and stigma around autism. This makes it even more important to raise awareness and educate others on what autism is and how to support those on the spectrum. Autism is considered a spectrum because it’s different for every autistic person – some autistic people may need more support than others to live the lives they want to lead. How autism affects a person can change as they grow and develop and experience different environments.

One of the key aspects of autism is that it affects individuals in different ways, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to understanding or supporting someone with autism – no two people who have autism diagnoses present in the same way. Autistic people often have co-occurring conditions such as ADHD, Dyslexia, and Dyspraxia. It is vital that we understand these conditions to be able to understand the unique profile of each person.

Some common traits and challenges for those on the spectrum may include:

  • Difficulties with social communication and interaction
  • Repetitive behaviours
  • Sensitivities to noise, texture, smell, or light

It’s also important to recognise that individuals with autism have unique strengths, talents, and abilities and that they should be recognised and valued for who they are. They are more than just their autism and should not be defined by it.

How to Support Individuals with Autism

So, what can we do to support individuals with autism and raise awareness about it? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Educate yourself and others about autism. Learn about the different forms of autism, its causes and how it affects individuals and their families.
  • Share this information with others to help increase understanding and dispel stereotypes and myths.
  • Be an ally and an advocate. Speak up against discrimination of those with autism and support their rights and inclusion in all aspects of life.
  • Be understanding and patient. Individuals with autism may have difficulty communicating or expressing themselves, so be patient and try to see things from their perspective.
  • Get involved in autism-related events and initiatives. Participate in walks, runs, and other events to raise awareness and support for those on the spectrum.

‘’By increasing awareness and advocating for those on the spectrum, we can help create a more inclusive and supportive society for all.’’ – Louise Bray

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