A new Netflix comedy is set to explore the life of one autistic teenager.
As a nation do we really understand the disability?
The National Autistic Society (NAS) says there’s a long way to go and research shows that 87% of people living with autism think the general public don’t have a good understanding of the condition. Some people with autism may have accompanying learning difficulties, but autism itself has nothing to do with intellectual capability.
1. Autism is not a mental health problem
It’s a lifelong developmental condition but according to new NAS figures, 28% of people believe, incorrectly, that autism is a mental health condition.
2. Autism doesn’t affect men more than women
Various studies have come up with male/female ratios ranging from 2:1 to 16:1. But recent research has suggested that the number of girls to boys with autism is actually far more equal than diagnoses would suggest. The problem is in the way autism manifests itself in women that makes it harder to diagnose. Actually, 42% of females have been misdiagnosed, as compared to 30% of males.
3. Autism is not as uncommon as most people think
There are around 700,000 people in the UK with autism, including Aspergers – that’s more than 1 in 100. New figures released by the NAS show that only 25% of people know that more than 1 in 100 people in the UK have autism.
4. Most people don’t know that people with autism can often be over or under sensitive to sounds, sights and smells
It turns out just 42% of people think that people with autism have difficulty processing everyday sensory information and can be over- or under-sensitive to stimuli like light and sound.
5. Not everyone is diagnosed as children, many are diagnosed later in life
6. Most people with autism want to be around others and have friends and relationships
According to an NAS survey, 65% of people with autism said they would like to have more friends, but while social skills are something many of us take for granted they can be difficult for someone with autism, and this can come across as a mistaken disinterest for forming friendships.
7. Of course people with autism can work, but unfortunately only 15% are in full time employment
In fact employers could be missing out on abilities that people on the autism spectrum have more than anyone else, like pattern recognition, logical reasoning, and attention to detail.
Mark Lever, Chief Executive of the NAS, said that awareness has increased dramatically in the last 50 years, a time when people with autism were often written off and hidden from society.
He said: “But there is still a long way to go before autism is fully understood and people with the condition are able to participate fully in their community. All too often we still hear stories of families experiencing judgemental attitudes or individuals facing isolation or unemployment due to misunderstandings or myths around autism.
“If we’re really going to improve the world for people with autism, we need to move away from focusing on simply raising awareness and ensure we are building understanding of autism and the different ways it can affect people.
“This has to happen in every sector of society, from health and social care, to culture and the media. Better understanding of autism would improve every part of the life of a person with autism, increasing the chances of an early diagnosis and support, lowering incidents of bullying at school and improving employment prospects.
“The right understanding and support can make all the difference and ensure that they live full lives as part of their local communities.”