What is autism?
Autism is a lifelong developmental condition that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them. A different way of seeing the world in which we live
It is a lifelong spectrum condition which is generally identified in early childhood but can also be identified and diagnosed in adulthood. People with autism often need extra support but are able to have a happy and fulfilling life.
Here at Autism Together, we support over 400 adults with autism, and many more families with children on the autism spectrum, to do just that.
What is it like to have autism?
Everyone with autism is unique and how their autism manifests itself will be unique too. Each person will have their particular strengths, along with areas where they need support. That is why we take a person-centred approach at Autism Together, we appreciate that everyone’s needs are quite different.
For example, some people with autism may need support with communication, some with sensory issues, others with diets, relationships or anxiety.
Some individuals may have difficulties with social and emotional communication and interaction with people. Others may develop repetitive or restrictive patterns of behaviour. Some may be over-sensitive to sensory inputs, while others may be under-sensitive and seek out strong sensations.
It really is different for everyone.
How do families cope?
Raising a child with autism can place extraordinary demands on parents. There is more awareness of autism in society today, but some parents of children with autism have noticed a lack of empathy or understanding from some members of the public when their child has a meltdown.
A meltdown can happen when someone with autism is in crisis and cannot control or cope with the feelings of distress and anxiety that may sometimes overwhelm them.
Fortunately, there are many charities and organisations, like Autism Together, ready to offer help, advice and support to those with autism and their families.
How common is autism?
Currently, there are 700,000 people diagnosed with autism in the UK, around 1% of the population. Autism is more prevalent amongst males (1 in 2) than females (1 in 3), though more females are being diagnosed these days.
It is thought that girls are better at hiding or masking, their autism than boys and this might account for less of them receiving a diagnosis.
What causes autism?
Autism is one of the most researched areas in health today and this research includes theories on the causes of autism.
A range of theories are being researched and discussed, some of which are considered controversial. While science has not yielded the answers so far, one thing is clear – anybody can have a child with autism.
What support is available?
In 2009, The Autism Act became law. It is the only condition-specific Act of Parliament in the history of Parliamentary legislation. It allows people with autism to have a right to the support they need in the way that they want it.
Autism Together is committed to working with and for people with autism, helping them to enjoy safe and fulfilling lives.
The history of autism…
While autism is likely to have existed throughout history, it was in 1943 that Dr Leo Kanner’s paper on the condition changed how society viewed children and adults on the spectrum.
Kanner described autism as “a neurodiverse condition that affects the way a person relates to the world” and the definition has not changed too drastically since then.
Almost 80 years later, theories on autism and the development of the medical and social model, continue to change. Likewise, attitudes and language around people with autism continues to progress too.
Thankfully, there are now more individuals with autism who speak out about their experiences in a world that is inherently neurodiverse yet not always geared up to include and support those with autism.
These days autism is often viewed as a difference rather than a disability. Dr Wen Lawson even described it as a ‘differbility’.
The last two decades have seen a leaning towards recognising the strengths that people with autism have, alongside offering the right support where it is needed.
Of course, these strengths will differ with the individual, but might include:
- An ability to focus on details
- Thinking outside the box, particularly useful in problem-solving, art and creativity
- Honesty and integrity
- Good memory
- Special interests, perhaps able to become an expert on a favoured topic or pursuit
At Autism Together we value each individual and will tailor our approach to best suit them. This might mean using alternative communication systems that make the most sense to the individual, being aware of and meeting their sensory needs where it is safe to do so, and giving each person choices of what they want to do with their time and their lives.
To find out more about our services for people with autism, click here.
Take our test below to test your knowledge about autism and watch our video giving an idea of what it might be like for someone with autism to be overloaded by the sensory information we take for granted each day.