Here are 10 things we would like the world to know about autism.
1. Autism is a spectrum condition
This means that although all individuals with autism have 1) difficulties with communication and 2) unusual behaviours, no two people will be the same. Everyone is different.
2. Autism is a different way of thinking and seeing the world
This means it’s important not to make any assumptions about the autistic individual you know. For example, an activity that you find enjoyable and pleasant could be very stressful for someone on the autistic spectrum; and what’s in your head and is common sense for you, might not be for someone else.
3. 3 tips for communicating with autistic people
- If you think it, say it!
- If you say it, mean it!
- Even if it’s obvious, explain it!
4. Most autistic people experience high levels of anxiety
Although autism isn’t a mental health condition in itself, a very common consequences of it is for the person to suffer with high anxiety. Anxiety is common in people with autism, even in situations where you can’t really imagine there could be anything to be anxious about. Have some understanding that the person you know likely feels anxious most of the time and consider whether there’s anything you could do to help them feel less anxious.
5. It’s common for autistic people to withdraw
Don’t take it personally if the autistic person you know declines invitations, backs out of social events, or doesn’t stay in touch very much. This person most likely finds life very tiring and needs a lot of time alone to process things and regenerate their energy.
6. Many autistic people have heightened senses
Sounds can be far too loud, light can be too bright, smells can be overpowering, touch can be painful… etc. Having heightened senses means normal, everyday experiences can be highly uncomfortable. If you’re close to someone with autism, think about the environment you’re in and whether there’s anything you can do to reduce the intensity of sensations, e.g. meet in peaceful places, close blinds, dim lights, avoid handshakes and hugging, etc.
7. Personality will affect someone just as much as, or more, than their autism
Everybody has their own unique personality – a set of likes and dislikes, a baseline mood, different personality traits, desire for socialising, etc. It’s surprising how many people forget this very simple concept!
8. Some autistic people are very sociable
A large proportion of literature and films depict autistic people as being very isolated with no desire to interact with anybody. Leo Kanner, one of the first people to discover autism, described autism as “a powerful desire for aloneness.” We now know however that there are lots of autistic people who are the opposite of this – some autistic people have a strong desire for social interactions and friendships.
9. Writing may be a better way to keep in touch with an autistic person
Verbal communication is very hard. Indeed, the criteria for a diagnosis of autism includes social difficulties. You might find that an autistic person is likely to be more interactive if you initiate and encourage communication through written or visual form, such as email, text message, writing, social media, pictures, emoticons etc. In this way, you may even manage to get someone to come out of their shell a little bit!
10. Predictability is important for many autistic people
An autistic person will probably find the world a very confusing and anxiety-provoking place. One way to make it less so is to help make things as predictable as possible – this means being on time, finishing on time, sticking to plans, reducing last minute changes – and giving people an agenda in advance about what is going to be happening whenever they go and do something.
For more information about autism, feel free to browse this website and our Facebook page.
Purchase Alis’s book Asperger’s and Me.