Support for World Autism Week (March 29 - April 2, 2021) is needed now more than ever. The coronavirus pandemic has been particularly tough for many autistic people and their families. Services have closed and many people have been left stranded.
The ever-changing guidelines and restrictions can be confusing to understand and extremely difficult to implement for autistic people with high support needs.
Thanks to supporters, the National Autistic Society has been able to campaign to ensure autistic people's needs are taken into account by governments across the UK in these challenging times.
Autistic people have been included in mask exemptions and have been given more opportunities to exercise.
What is autism?
Autism is a lifelong developmental disability which affects how people communicate and interact with the world. One in 100 people are on the autism spectrum and there are around 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK.
To learn more, the National Autistic Society has produced a short video which explains more about autism and how it effects individuals and families - you can watch it here:
Autism is a spectrum condition and affects people in different ways. Like all people, people with autism have their own strengths and weaknesses. Below is a list of difficulties same may share, including the two key difficulties required for a diagnosis:
• Social communication and social interaction
• Repetitive behaviour and problems dealing with change
• Over- or under-sensitivity to light, sound, taste or touch
• Highly-focused interests or hobbies
• Extreme anxiety
• Meltdowns and shutdowns
"The greatest discomfort for autistic people can be the social one. For me, I was confused by the way people behaved."
The things we can all do to understand autism better
Autism (including Asperger syndrome) is a lifelong disability, and the concept of a cure is controversial for many autistic people and their families. However, there are a range of approaches that can support autistic people to reach their full potential.
Autism is complex and what helps one person may not help others, so it is vital that each person is supported as an individual and that any interventions are adapted to their specific needs. A range of communication-based, behavioural and educational approaches exist such as:
• PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System)
• SPELL (Structure, Positive, Empathy, Low arousal, Links)
• TEACCH (Treatment of Autistic and Communication Handicapped Children)
• Social stories
• Speech and language therapy
People with autism often have sensory differences and may avoid everyday situations because of these issues. There are many simple adjustments that can make a space more autism friendly (as suggested by National Autistic Society).
- Dimming glaring lights
- Providing sunglasses
- Using blackout curtains
- Shutting doors and windows to reduce external sounds
- Creating a screened workstation in the classroom or office
- Positioning the person away from doors and windows
- Providing ear plugs or music to listen to
- Warning the person if you are about to touch them
- Always approach them from the front
- Remembering that a hug may be painful rather than comforting
- Turning clothes inside out so there is no seam
- Removing any clothing tags or labels
The National Autistic Society believes that interventions need to be adapted to the needs of the person and monitored for impact.
More information and resources can be found on their website.