Today is the World Autism Awareness Day. The goal of this day is to increase awareness about autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
In 2022, there are still many children and young people who remain undiagnosed with autism. It is often due to the lack of awareness and understanding of what autism actually is. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that makes the brain work differently. Hence, it affects the way how a person perceives the world and socialises with others. This, however, does not need to hold them back from living a full life.
There are many misconceptions portraying autism as a ‘disease’ that can be caught by viruses, certain vaccines or diets. Many parents still think that their children can ‘grow out of it’ or they simply mistake their autism symptoms for personality traits.
There is also a prejudice that autism is a ‘modern-day disease’ due to the recent ‘inflation’ in diagnoses. However, this is not because there are more autistic people than before, only that now we have a different approach to neurodevelopmental disorders than we did a few decades ago.
Those who grew up in the 80s or 90s may have experienced their parents being ashamed to take them to a psychiatrist, neurologist or psychologist, as they didn’t want to 'admit' that there was ‘something wrong’ with their children.
Luckily, this has changed a lot over the years due to the advancement of the internet. Today there's more readily available information for the public on neurodevelopmental disorders, which has reduced the stigma around autism. However, the awareness and the amount of help available are still not where they should be.
In fact, there are very limited resources in the UK to give people with neurodevelopmental disorders the support they need. The average wait for young children’s autism assessment is over a year, while some families of older children and adults may have to wait three to four years for a diagnosis. This means that many young children - and adults - don’t receive the help they need. As a result, they may live their whole life thinking that something is wrong with them.
This is something that hits Webbed Feet close to home, as one member of our team is autistic, while another one has ADHD, which is also a common neurodevelopmental disorder with limited awareness and support (- but that’s for another day).
Autism can come with many positives, such as special talents and skills. In the right circumstances and environment, it can become a gift that benefits everyone. However, the lack of support and awareness can easily turn autism into a disability.
So we're here to spread awareness today, which can save someone’s life tomorrow. Let’s break the stigma around autism and stop treating it as a disease that holds people back.
Being autistic simply means that their brain works differently from others.
In today’s world, where everyone aims to look, act and think the same way and we all conform to universal standards, standing out from the crowd and being different is something to be truly proud of.