‘Isms everywhere but awareness just online’: Bury Mum says World Autism Awareness Day ‘not helpful’

World Autism Awareness Day ‘isn’t helpful’ to society’s understanding of the condition or its ‘real world’ implications, according to a Manchester mum of two autistic children.

Today’s global event aims to increase the awareness of autism and the impact it can have on people’s lives. 
But Shell Spectrum, from Bury, believes that the event doesn’t help highlight the growing issues that prevent people with autism integrating into society.
“I don’t think [World Autism Awareness Day] is helpful in respect of society’s understanding or acknowledgement of autism once out there in the real world,” she told MM.
“You can go online and autism is an everyday word, but in the real world people are still responding with comments such as, ‘Oh, what is that?’
“There is nobody in my area doing anything for World Autism Awareness Day that I am aware of – it all seems to be online.”
Shell, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, explained that more people were aware of autism these days compared to in the past, but that people are still failing to gain any real understanding of its impact.
She said: “Autism awareness has grown to an extent, but that does not equal a better understanding.
“There are still issues with getting assessments and diagnosis, not just for adults, but children as well.
“Schools, social services and hospitals need educating where children with autism are concerned, because although autism is better known now than a decade ago, things are really no further on.”
She believes that people with autism don’t benefit from increased opportunities in modern society in ‘any way’.
“It’s hard for anyone with any disability or condition to integrate in society, because society is not very accepting of people who are different to them,” she said.
“‘Isms’ are everywhere and awareness is mostly online – not in the real world.”
According to the National Autistic Society, more people are aware of autism in the UK than ever before with a recent YouGov survey suggesting public awareness currently stands at over 99% – a 9% increase since 2005.
But less than 1% of people surveyed believe that people with autism can’t work, despite NAS research showing that just 15% of adults with autism are in full-time paid employment.
NAS chief executive Mark Lever said that more education was needed to show that people with autism can integrate into society and make their own life choices.
“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,” he said. 
“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.”
Other findings suggested that people with the condition can be shunned on a social level, with just 4% of those surveyed by YouGov saying they had a friend with autism and only 3% admitting they had a colleague or classmate with the condition. 
In a separate survey of people affected by autism in the UK, over half (52%) of respondents said they strongly agree that the general public don’t have a good understanding of the condition, with a further 35% agreeing.
Despite Shell’s views, Mark explained that World Autism Awareness Day was the most important date on the charity’s calendar, which he argued delivers an increased understanding.
“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,” he said. 
“All too often we still hear stories of families experiencing judgemental attitudes or individuals facing isolation or unemployment due to misunderstandings around autism.
“Autism can have a profound impact on an individual and their family, but the right understanding and support can make all the difference and ensure that they live full lives as part of their local communities.”
Image courtesy of Lynne Featherstone, with thanks

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