World Autism Awareness Day – What you need to know

Posted in: Wellbeing Last updated: 02 Apr 2014

Autism affects over 700,000 people in the UK alone [1], and the Engage Foundation has had six community awards and 13 personal grant applications on autism related subjects – showing that more funding is desperately needed up and down the country. These applications range from providing special equipment to help with speech and learning, to organising respite breaks for people who care for autism sufferers, and training volunteers to provide support.

South Ayrshire Autistic Society, a winner of the Foundation used their funding to go on a trip to an autism-friendly showing of The Lion King. Leslie Moore explains why she applied for this funding:

“Autism sufferers and their parents or carers can become very isolated and it’s vital that they know they have people supporting them. Our charity helps our members when they need it most – guiding them through difficult times and helping them to stay connected to their community.

“Autism sufferers and their parents or carers can become very isolated and it’s vital that they know they have people supporting them."

Arranging regular social activities is really important to the charity and our members, but it can be difficult. Everyday outings such as trips to the cinema or theatre are often impossible because lighting, noise and surroundings can cause distress, often disturbing other viewers. Cost is a major factor too, so we often find we need support in that area.”

Recognising the need for funding for autism charities and groups, the Government has coined a new initiative – “Think Autism”, which will put £4.5million towards a fund to support the development of new services for people with autism, as well as funding a programme to build understanding among people who work with those who have autism, along with the general public, and also aims to make communities more autism-friendly. There’ll be more details available on how to apply for this funding by the end of June.

As part of World Autism Awareness day today, we’re shedding some light on some of the many myths and misconceptions around autism.

The myth: You can only be diagnosed with autism as a child/children ‘grow out’ of autism

In fact, there are many autism sufferers who are diagnosed during adulthood, which can sometimes be a great relief if they’ve spent years feeling like they don’t quite fit in. However, far more support is currently placed on children with the condition, and adults with autism often feel they’re not getting the help they need. Children with autism don’t stop having the condition when they enter adulthood; although they might get better at managing it, support needs to continue throughout their lives.

The myth: Children with autism can’t be educated

As long as structured support is given both in and out of school, people with autism can reach their full academic potential. Most children with autism go to mainstream schools and can flourish there, but others may need extra support at special educational needs schools.

The myth: All people with autism have a special skill or are particularly good at art, music and maths

People with autism who have an extraordinary talent are referred to as “autistic savants”, and it’s currently thought that only 0.5% to 1% of people on the autistic spectrum have such talents [2]. However, one of the characteristics of autism is that the people who have it will often become fascinated with a topic and go out of their way to learn a lot about it – which naturally leads to them becoming an expert. This is why people with autism often seem to be particularly good at maths, music and art.

The myth: People with autism don’t feel emotions and can’t form or sustain friendships or relationships

People with autism are actually extremely sensitive. They can feel emotions intensely and are sometimes overwhelmed by the emotions of those around them. However, the condition does affect their ability to communicate with others which can make forming relationships difficult – although not impossible. Many people with autism have successful and happy relationships with friends and partners, although 65% of those surveyed in 2012 said they would like more friends [3].

If you’d like to find out more about autism, The National Autistic Society has some informative resources on the condition and how we can raise awareness and help make the lives of people with autism easier. Another common misconception is that people with autism find it difficult to work or achieve success, but with the right support this is far from the truth. Many people on the autistic spectrum have gone on to do great things because they had the skills required to succeed; for example, Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

1 The National Autistic Society (February, 2014), “How many people in the UK have an autism ” [online]. Available from www.autism.org.uk

2 The National Autistic Society (October, 2011), “How to talk about autism” [online]. Available from www.autism.org.uk

3 The National Autistic Society (May, 2013), “50th birthday survey report” [online]. Available from www.autism.org.uk


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