Autism Awareness week – 29th March – 4th April. World Autism Awareness Week aims to improve people's understanding of autism and help make the world more welcoming to those who are neurodivergent.
What is Autism?
Autism, otherwise known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a lifelong neurodevelopmental condition characterised by difficulties with social communication and interaction. Autistic people have unique perspectives on the world around them which is really special and can be an asset to any team or working environment and promoting out of the box ideas that no one else would come up with.
Autism is a spectrum thus meaning that no two people have the same experience, traits or difficulties. Autistic people can have a plethora of interests which they enjoy and know a lot about alongside having strengths in many areas. Conversely, due to autistic brains being wired differently it can pose challenges in processing sensory related information and individuals can become overloaded, over or under stimulated and meltdown. When this happens we just need a little bit of support from those around us.
Furthermore, anyone can be diagnosed with autism and at any stage in their life, it does not just affect one group of people.
Why is it important to raise awareness?
We have come a long way in understanding autism but there is still a long way to go. Like any condition, disability or mental illness there is always room for improvement and more to be done to raise awareness. Every autistic person has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses, so it is important not to generalise. If you are unsure, just ask the person!
I’m Meg, a late-diagnosed autistic female. Fun fact: I was diagnosed seven months ago – late diagnosis is often common in females due to a common trait known as masking (hiding your autistic traits to come across as neurotypical). I pride myself on raising awareness of autism, advocating for the needs of disabled students and ensuring accessibility is at the forefront of the Student’s Union's agenda. Alongside being your disabled student rep, I am a youth patron at Ambitious about Autism - a group of 16-25 year olds working collaboratively to champion their mission of empowering autistic young people and amplifying their voices. I have been invited to co-deliver training to the Birmingham NHS trust and got appointed as an Expert Advisor supporting Ambitious on their 3 year strategy, holding them to account on the decisions they make.
Difference is beautiful and I am proud to be autistic, and everyone reading this – you deserve to be happy and proud of who you are.
1- You can grow out of autism
This is so far from the truth; you are either born autistic or not meaning you cannot grow out of it therefore autistic children turn into autistic adults.
2- You can look autistic
You cannot tell by looking at someone if they are autistic, it is a hidden disability so unless you really get to know someone and understand their autistic traits you will be unable to tell.
3- Only men and boys can be autistic
Anyone of any age, gender or ethnicity can be autistic, it is a neurodevelopmental condition that can affect anyone.
Disabled Rep for the 2020/21 academic year