Become Aware

Autism is a lifelong disability that severely affects how a person thinks, communicates and relates to other people.  It affects around 1 in 100 people and more males than females.  It is called a ‘spectrum condition’ because it affects people in different ways and many also have learning difficulties.  But, all people with autism share three main areas of difficulty:

Social interaction – understanding the social rules that most people pick up without thinking e.g. the need for personal space and making eye contact.  This makes it hard for them to make friends and form relationships.
Social communication – understanding how to communicate and getting confused by literal language.  Some individuals never actually speak.
Social imagination – understanding that other people may have different thoughts and feelings from their own.  They find it hard to imagine situations outside their normal daily routine and to predict what will or could happen next.
Many people with autism also have sensory difficulties: they may be obsessed by or totally hate certain sounds, smells, materials etc.
As a result of their difficulties, people with autism find life very confusing which causes them high stress and anxiety every day.  In order to cope, they may have stress-reducing behaviours which can be unusual, obsessive or challenging.  Because autism is not a visible disability, the public are often quick to judge and are not supportive when someone with autism behaves ‘oddly’.
People with autism often fail in school and work situations and their confidence and self-esteem deteriorate as a result.  Many become depressed and suffer from mental health problems.  Teenagers are particularly vulnerable, often being bullied by so-called ‘friends’ or excluded from school.  As they become adults, most do not have the skills needed to live on their own or get a job so they end up just staying at home or walking the streets. Some tragically break the law and commit crimes, because of their lack of understanding of appropriate social behaviour.
Whilst autism is incurable, with the right support people with the condition can lead fulfilling lives.  Awareness and understanding from the public is vital in making this possible.  So, if you see someone behaving oddly, think twice before you judge – you may just not be aware

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