Autism Awareness Month: 10 Things You Need to Know About Autism
April is Autism Awareness Month and families across the country are going through a difficult time. It’s hard enough for kids that aren’t on the Autism spectrum to keep occupied during this isolation period. For ASD families the challenge is real and one that needs to be acknowledged.
Autism has been an integral part of my family’s life for over 15 years. I have lived and worked in the autism world. I have academic qualifications to show for it. Academics aside, no amount of study can prepare a parent the job that follows diagnosis.
My son, Aysh, is 17 and was diagnosed at the age of 2. He has significant challenges in social skills and communication. Our family has lived experience in this area. This article is aimed at supporting carer-families, organisations and communities wishing to build supportive environments for autism and disability.
1. Autism is for life
There is no cure for autism. All therapies and interventions that you hear about may help those with autism develop new skills or decrease their anxieties. But they do not cure it.
2. People with autism have empathy
People with autism show emotions differently. Individuals with autism may struggle to express empathy due to challenges with social skills and communication.
3. People with autism can have quality friendships
Connection and friendships are a human desire. People with autism also want to make connections and develop friendships. Friendships for people with autism may look different, but they are valuable and meaningful in their own way.
4. Not all people with autism have savant skills
Savant skills are special skills that are above an individual’s general ability and above the population norm. It is a myth to think that all people with autism have savant skills. Research has suggested that approximately 10% of people with autism have savant-level skills.
5. Autism is not caused by vaccinations
In the 1990’s a research group published a study claiming that autism was caused by vaccinations. In a desperate effort to understand autism, the broader community embraced the research as fact. The reality is vaccinations don’t cause autism, but they do save lives.
6. People with autism can have a great sense of humour
Studies have shown that young people with autism do not comprehend jokes in the same way as peers who do not have autism. However, young people with autism do appear to feel greater enjoyment when they read or hear jokes.
7. People with autism are no more violent than others
There are often reports in the media of individuals with autism who have acted violently. The autism diagnosis forms part of the reports and readers tend to make connections between autism and violence. The research, however, suggests that people with more people with autism are more likely to be the victim of violence, than the perpetrator.
8. People with autism can have successful romantic relationships
People with autism do have a desire for intimacy and companionship. However, because they have challenges with social interactions it can make finding a partner and maintaining a relationship, difficult. But it is possible for people with autism to have successful relationships.
9. Not all people with autism have intellectual disability
Approximately 30-40% of individuals with autism also have an intellectual disability with an IQ below 70. Another 25% have a mild intellectual disability. It can be difficult to measure IQ in individuals with communication difficulties.
10. Not all people with autism are the same
Autism is like many other human conditions; it has variations and personality differences across the whole spectrum. Autism does not impact any two people the same way. It is useful to use autism as a lens to try and understand each individual – their way of communicating, interacting and behaving.
I have expanded on each of these points, relating them to our experience with Aysh, in an article on my website soniaregan.com
Please visit, read our story and share your experiences with us. What is different, what is the same? The is a saying in the ASD community. “If you’ve met one person with autism, then you’ve met one person with autism”. In other words, no two experiences will be the same. What works for us may not work for you. However, we may have things we can offer each other.
This is the ultimate goal of Autism Awareness Month. To join in recognising those families that live this experience every day. Bushfires and viruses don’t diminish the needs for ASD families. Please share this story and add to it.