Thursday April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day

It’s estimated that one in every hundred people has autism. Yet, how many of us really understand what that means?   And how we can help those with the condition live the best life possible? 

What is autism?

Autism is a developmental disorder. It affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them.

This is a spectrum condition. Some people may be able to lead relatively independent lives, but others may have accompanying learning disabilities and need lifetime support. There are common traits, though. People with autism may experience over or under-sensitivity to sounds, touch, taste, smells, light or colour.

One common misunderstanding is that everyone with autism should have a special talent , another is that the person is locked into a world from which they are trying to escape.   Most people with autism just want to live a normal life and be accepted by the wider community.

Asperger syndrome is a form of autism. People with Asperger syndrome are often of average or above average intelligence. They have fewer problems with speech but may still have difficulties with understanding and processing language and with social interaction.

How do people with autism see the world?

Imagine you have crashed landed on an alien planet. You don’t speak the language and can’t figure out the social etiquette. How would you say hello? Most people would offer a hand to shake or wave, but on this planet that means that you don’t like the person or you are being rude. If you don’t know how to communicate or you don’t know how to act appropriately, the alien planet will soon become a frustrating and scary place. This is how individuals with autism feel every day.

How you can help someone with autism?

These tips were written by a young man with autism. He stresses that whilst everyone with autism is different, there are some common ways you can help.

  • Be understanding and don’t be offended by us. People with autism have problems reading social cues and body language. We tend to take things literally and have trouble reading between the lines. We may ask a lot of questions – that’s to help us understand what you are telling us. We may appear to be frank, honest and matter of fact. Please don’t interpret this as rudeness.
  • Don’t expect eye contact. This can be incredibly hard for someone with autism and the effort may mean we can’t then concentrate on what you are saying.
  • Someone with autism may have been rejected, excluded, ridiculed or bullied in the past. If we seem anxious or insecure this may be due to living in a world that misunderstands us and is often hostile to us. We have to work hard to reach out to others. Please work at reaching back to us with understanding and kindness.
  • Please don’t speak down to us. Treat us as equals. We may sound flat or have an unusual tone to our voice. We may not speak with our voice at all. We may need to type our words. Please be patient with us. It may take us a while to formulate our answers.
  • Don’t talk too loudly or shout at us. It is very jarring. It makes me jump when someone comes up to me and talks too loudly. It is like having someone jump out in the dark yelling “BOO!”.
  • Never touch us without warning.
  • Please don’t assume that we lack empathy or emotion. We pick up on negative or judgmental attitudes. We know when people look down on us or are hostile to us. We will shut down if you show us a lack of respect.

Wirral Autistic Society has been supporting and caring for people with autism since 1968. Whatever your circumstances, our skilled and friendly staff are here to help you.

Admissions team: 0151 482 3126

Children and family services: 0151 666 9960

Employment services: 0151 559 2399 ext. 2

Respite service: 07557 858958

Head office: 0151 334 7510