Firstly, I’d like to say the biggest thank you to the lovely Tia Atkins for messaging me regarding writing about Autism. It always means a huge amount when people message me, and especially when it’s to do with something they feel strongly about.
The truth is, everyone experiences stigma’s with different topics. However, it’s hard to know about these stigma’s when they aren’t discussed enough (hence the term stigma) and especially when I haven’t had much experience myself.
People with Autism tend to see the world differently and so taking part in everyday life such as work and school can be harder for them. Persistent difficulties include social communication / interaction and not having a routine or repetitive pattern to follow.
Hopefully, this post will succeed in raising that little bit more awareness. Working as a Teaching Assistant over the past year, I’ve worked with many Autistic children. After researching and discussing Autism, I’ve come to realise that my “knowledge” of Autism has been very naive.
Not every person who has Autism shares the same traits, in fact there are many different categories an Autistic person can fall into.
Whilst chatting about a potential post and Autism, Tia sent me a link to another post that discussed the many different traits a person with Autism can have. Please take a look, it’s very insightful.
“It’s hard because I’ve found over the years that autism isn’t one set of things it’s so broad and every autistic person is completely different. He has dyslexia as well as attention deficit disorder. He is an absolute charmer he has a beautiful personality and he’s so funny.”
More than 1 in 100 people in the UK have Autism, but it’s not a topic that’s discussed often. It’s definitely a topic that needs more awareness raised and to be simply talked about.
So I took to the amazing world of social media in order to gain further knowledge, but most importantly, from a personal aspect. I can sit here and give you facts but the truth is facts don’t mean anything to you without some evidence.
Those who answered or were represented by another person were both male and female, 50% being males and 50% being females. Out of both genders 50% were between 18 and 24 years old and 50% were under 18 years old.
So let’s talk about diagnosis. Tia actually mentioned to me, and after research myself I’ve come to realise, that females tend to be diagnosed later on in life. Their symptoms aren’t always as severe or obvious as those that males tend to have.
“About two months ago (this respondent was in the 18-24 years old category and female) – gave me a clearer and more detailed explanation of why and how I do some certain things.”
“As a baby. It made me feel bad as my auntie has 3 kids with autism (under 18 and female).”
“20, clarification and understood why she had such difficulty in high school.”
“He was diagnosed around 2 years ago. He knows he’s autistic but he knows it’s nothing bad and he doesn’t really think that of himself (13 years old.”
“3, he’s quite severely autistic. His very limited speech means that he can’t explain how he feels.”
“Not sure of an exact age but roughly 10, from the stories they said originally very disheartened due to stigma behind it (male).”
“3.5 years. It put an end to all the uncertainty and gave us the answers to all our questions (male).”
Hopefully you can now see why I’ve chosen to include the gender and age of each respondent above. It’s quite clear from these few answers that females ARE diagnosed later than males.
Personally, if I’m being honest, I’ve always thought that people with autism were completely different to those of us without, and I hope that isn’t taken offensively. Baring in mind, when I had that opinion, I knew zilch about autism, so it was a very ignorant opinion.
There is certainly a stigma surrounding autism. Programmes such as ‘The Undateables’ add to and build the barrier of difference between those with Tourettes, Autism and Down Syndrome.
Despite it possibly not being created with the intention of causing offence, for those with the diagnosis are isolated further by a programme that makes them believe they are even further away from “the norm”.
I think this also works the other way around, where those without a diagnosis or needs, believe that people with, aren’t normal. But what is normal? How do you define normal?
“It’s hard because I’ve found over the years that autism isn’t one set of things it’s so broad and every autistic person is completely different.”
So how does having the diagnosis of Autism, effect somebody?
“It was hard to tell people, but it’s been positive because it means I can get help if I need it – it’s always a bit daunting realising how messed you are but it gets better.”
“They struggle daily with school and with friends and different relationships.”
“Luckily her uni has the right support for her, but it has been difficult outside of that. It’s definitely a learning process for her and people around her particularly with understanding other people’s reaction (speaking from an outside view.”
“He didn’t speak until he was 4 and even now can’t have a conversation. Struggles socially in his own bubble and gets stressed in any new situation.”
“It’s made them incredibly creative in their art form, you see their brain work differently to others. Even if they can’t get it across verbally, it shows in their work.”
“Lack of speech and communication means he can’t make or maintain friends. It also means he can’t express his feelings causing further frustration and upset sometimes. He’ll always have to be under the care of someone else.”
“When he was younger he would HATE having his hair cut. This was due to sensory issues. As well as this he would hate to go to restaurants because he could not stand the sound of crying babies. But over the years this has improved so much and he isn’t effected by this anymore.”
The third thing I was keen to find out more about was what it was like for a person with Autism to open up about it. The truth is, I haven’t come across many Autistic people however with the statistic of 1 in 100 in the UK having Autism, I’m pretty sure that I’ve come across a few without knowing.
Does the stigma surrounding it make it difficult to open up? What is it like opening up about it?
“Hard – but I have amazing friends and family who understand and love me just as much.”
“My family are very supportive about it, I have a couple of cousins who have autism so we are always there for each other.”
“It’s something we discovered together as a family. I believe with opening up it allowed most people to be more open to how she might react in social situations.”
“The severity of his autism means he can’t ‘open up’ about it because of lack of understanding and communication skills.”
“I’m happy talking about it. I don’t think it’s anything to be ashamed of. Other people need educating.”
As the last respondent said above, I truly think we all need to be educated way more on the likes of Autism. We all have our own idea’s of it but without proper knowledge or experience we don’t truly know what it is or how it can effect somebody.
One thing I didn’t even consider was medication. Thanks to the lovely person who messaged me directly I was able to find out a bit more about the effects medication can have.
“Over the years he has tried different medication. One of the first turned him into a zombie. It was horrible to see, he wasn’t his usual bubbly self. Another gave him Tourette’s which was the most difficult for me because it was upsetting.”
Recently, in the news, there has been talk about allowing those with mental health issues and Autism to have a blue badge (allowing them to park nearer to the store / said building). I believe plans are being put in place for it to become official by next year.
Disabilities aren’t always physical and as an outsider, you can’t always see them either. I truly think this is a brilliant step to be taking. We are finally allowing people with their different needs to be able to live comfortably as everyone deserves.
Please note also, that many famous names and “greats” shall we call them, had Autism – many that I had no clue about either. Here are a handful found after some research –
-Daryl Hannah (actress and environmental activist)
-Emily Dickinson (poet)
-Tim Burton (director, producer, artist, writer and animator)
-Andy Warhol (artist, director and producer)
-Susan Boyle (singer)
There was also claims that the legend Robin Williams (actor) had Autism too but he was never officially diagnosed with it.
Thank you so so so much to those that filled out the survey and messaged me directly. Lastly, thank you very much to Tia Atkins for messaging me initially regarding this post. Without her this post wouldn’t be a thing – so (as long as you like it) you have her to thank for this <3.
Ciao for now.