Autism Awareness Day

Hello everyone,

The 2nd of April marks Autism Awareness Day. This is a condition which has gained a lot of attention and more understanding in recent years. I know for me the book ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime’ by Mark Haddon was the turning point for me in terms of gaining a better understanding of Autism.

Additionally popular fictional characters such as Sherlock Holmes (allegedly) and Sheldon Copper from the Big Bang Theory have shed more light onto Autism. So for this blog I want to break down and briefly explain what Autism is and local support in and around Swansea.

So Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD actually refers to a group of developmental disorders. Like many conditions, ASD effects each person differently and they will all have different symptoms, levels of disability and skills which is dependent on where they fall on the spectrum.

Typically people with ASD have some level of social difficulties which influences the manner in which they communicate with others. This also in turn affect their ability to function in social situations which can include things like school, work or in areas of their social life.

People with ASD also tend to demonstrate repetitive behaviors in addition to limited or specialised interests or activities. The symptoms can range from mild impairment to a severe disability.

In the UK there are roughly 700,000 people diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum which equates to more than 1 in 100. Additionally if you include families, autism impacts the daily lives of 2.8 million people across the country.
ASD is quite often identified early on when individuals are babies and toddlers and school staff are trained to recognise ASD behaviours in older children.
The most common symptoms include but are not limited to:
  • Being overly focused on certain things, such as moving objects or parts of objects
  • Repeating certain patterns of behaviour or behaving in unusual manner
  • Having a long-lasting and intense interest in certain topics – especially numbers, details or facts
  • Getting upset by a slight change in routine/ being placed in a new setting/ a setting which is overly stimulating
  • Making little or inconsistent eye contact/ looking at people less often
  • Listening to people less often
  • Responding in an unusual way if a person shows anger, distress or affection
  • Failing/ being slow to respond to someone when their name id being called or if someone is trying to get their attention with other verbal cues
  • Speaking at length about a favourite subject, but not noticing that those around them may not be interested/not giving others a chance to respond
  • Struggling to keep up with the back and forth of conversations
  • Having facial expressions, gestures or movements that don’t match what is being said
  • Finding it difficult to understand another person’s point of view, or being unable to understand other people’s actions

Other reported common difficulties include being sensitive to noise, clothing, temperature and light. Those with ASD may also have trouble with their sleep, digestions and be prone to irritability.

However, despite the difficulties associated with ASD many people who have ASD have particular strengths and abilities. These can include:

  • Having above-average intelligence
  • Being able to learn things in detail and remember information for a long time
  • Excelling in maths, science, music or art

There are many famous people who have made meaningful contributions who were diagnosed with ASD. For instance the journal New Scientist states that Albert Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton show signs that they may have been autistic. Furthermore, ASD sufferers include director Stanley Kubrick, Dan Akyroyd, Michelangelo, Mozart, 3rd president of the United States Thomas Jefferson as well as James Joyce who wrote Ulysses.

So although ASD has a lot of difficulties, it shouldn’t detract from the fact that the person is an individual like everyone else. We should treat everyone regardless of any issues with patience, kindness and respect. We should also not be ignorant and label someone as rude when there might be something else underlying their behaviour, something that they cannot help.

I hope this is informative and I have included links to local support services below if you require some advice and help regarding ASD.

Thank you for reading!

Joanna Wolton

I am a PhD student in the Centre for Innovative Ageing within the College of Human and Health Sciences. I hope this blog is insightful and gives you some tips and information about what it is like to be a student living in Swansea.

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