“Auntie Mandy, can I touch your boobs?”
So my autistic niece likes to ask me repeatedly. And I am so glad to have her in my life because without her I would never have understood the joy that an autistic child can bring to their family or learnt not to be embarrassed by questions like this.
Today is World Autism Awareness Day. Although we know so much more about autism than we did twenty or thirty years ago, it is still so important for all of us to make sure we are autism aware. And here are 10 good reasons why:
1. About 700,000 people in the UK alone are on the autism spectrum and with their families they make up around 2.8 million people whose lives are affected by autism on a daily basis according to the National Autistic Society.
2. The number of people diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has dramatically increased over the last few years. Today it’s estimated that one child in 100 has ASD. This means in a secondary school of 1500 students about 15 of them will be autistic.
3. Being diagnosed as autistic isn’t a label or something negative – it can mean the difference between growing up in a confusing, scary world and getting all the right support and services. It also gives parents an explanation for difficulties their child is having. Adults can be diagnosed with autism as well.
4. Autistic people have a unique take on the world that can be fun, enlightening, entertaining and thought-provoking. They encourage us to see the value of sounds, smells, places and objects that may otherwise pass us by.
5. Chances are most people will know or be related to someone with autism making it vital that they understand something about what autism is and how they can adapt their world to make it more autism-friendly.
6. Autism is an invisible disability. That they could have extreme difficulties with sensory processing and social understanding and interaction is not immediately apparent.
7. Every autistic individual has their own unique version of autism. There are many myths and assumptions, but if you’ve met one person with autism … you’ve met one person with autism.
8. That kid in the supermarket having a tantrum might just be an autistic child so overloaded with sights, smells and sounds that the fear and stress has led to a meltdown. Think twice before judging: many parents are fighting battles like these every day and need your understanding and support.
9. Autistic traits have had a clear benefit to human development, as autism heroTemple Grandin puts it: ‘After all the really social people did not invent the first stone spear. It was probably invented by an Aspie [chipping] away at rocks.’
10. I would like my niece to grow up in a world that understands and embraces her difference … boobs and all.
Mandy Mazliah is a vegetarian mum of three, whose kids all hate vegetables! She blogs about her efforts to get her kids to eat more veg at Sneaky Veg.
Story earlier featured on Metro Uk
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