Autistic people in Wales spoke passionately about what this means for them.
This week is Autism Acceptance Week. There are around 700,000 people with autism in the UK (around 1 in 100 people). Almost everyone has heard of autism by now, but the National Autistic Society (NAS) says too few people understand what it’s really like to be autistic – both the different perspectives, passions and skills that people with autism can have and also how hard life can be if you don’t have the right support.
Autism is a spectrum, which means people with autism have varied and often complex support needs. Some people may have an accompanying learning disability and need round-the-clock care, while others just need things like clear communication and small adjustments at school or work.
Read more: The moment an autistic man saved a dog from drowning
So what is it like to be autistic? Well, there’s a very simple way to find out – ask people with autism. With the help of the Swansea branch of the NAS, WalesOnline asked people with autism of all ages to send in a video asking them a simple question: ‘What do you want the world to know about autism?’ The responses were varied, insightful, witty, eloquent and fascinating.
You can see their responses in the video at the top of this article, and read some of them here:
Scarlette, 6 said: “I want people to know that I love who I am. I’m proud of who I am. I don’t need to change who I am. I want people to understand and show their support. Everyone is different.
Lea, 22 years old, noted : “I am a full time student at Cardiff Metropolitan University. As an autistic person I want the world to know that girls can also have autism and are often misdiagnosed with depression, anxiety and OCD, etc. Sometimes girls with autism mask their traits to fit in with society, so this may play a central role in the misdiagnosis of girls with autism.
Charlie, 11 years old “As an autistic person, I just want everyone to know that we want to be treated like everyone else and not all of us are like Rain Man.”
Alice, 44 years old, noted : “As an autistic person, I wish the world knew that different doesn’t mean less. Playstation games don’t work on an Xbox, we’re just wired differently.
Louis, 9 years old, noted : “As an autistic person, I would like the world to know that I create characters and comics and that one day they will be a cartoon on television.”
Minnie said, “As an autistic person, I want the world to know that autistic people have their own minds and they have their own personalities. So if someone is trying to infiltrate that personality, don’t let that get in the way – just be yourself.
Josie, 9 years old noted : “As an autistic person, I want the world to know that you don’t have to watch if we have a meltdown because it makes us feel worse. Sometimes we just have to express our feelings.
Isaac, 11 years old noted : “As an autistic person, I want the world to know that even though our brains work differently, that’s a big plus.”
Adam, 12 years old, in a great Pikachu outfit, said, “I love Friday Night Funkin’ [a video game], Minecraft, Among Us and Pokemon. I have autism, it’s my superpower and I’m proud of my autism.”
Rhian, 27 years old, said, “Autism is not just a superpower, autism is a way of life. I wish more people would ask more questions of the individual rather than the person they are with. One thing I’m really passionate about is volunteering and helping others understand things better.
Jack, wearing an epic onesie, said, “Hello, I have autism, I want to raise awareness for people with autism, people like me, everywhere. Thank you.”
Storm said: “As an autistic person, I want the world to know that sometimes I have trouble processing all the information from my senses. This is particularly the case with sound. Not so much how loud something is, but how many different sounds there are. So I will have trouble hearing someone speak if there are other background noises like the radio, other people talking, or mechanical noises. I often read lips.
Henry, 17 years old: “As an autistic person, I would like everyone to know that we work hard and would like to have the same opportunity as everyone else.”
Caden said, “As an autistic person, I want the world to know that I can’t help it when I’m buzzing like a bee.”
Isabella noted “As an autistic, I love playing Minecraft and with Buster my dog. What matters to me are my friends and family.” Buster the dog actually made a cameo appearance in the video.
Well, 10 years old said, “As an autistic person, I want the world to know that I love dogs.”
Jack, 14 years old, said: “As an autistic person, we are capable of anything.”
Jazz, 23 years old, said: “Hi, I’m Jazz from Swansea. I work as a mental health support and volunteer for the NAS Swansea branch. I want the world to know that not everyone is a bit autistic, if not the world would be really very different.
Thomas, 15 years old , said: “I love swimming and I am on the Paralympic way for swimming. I would like to represent Team GB one day.
Jacques, 15 years old , did not speak to a camera. Although he sent a cool video of him on a mountain board on a ramp. Underneath was a caption that read, “I have autism, I see you, now see me.”
Mason, 9 years old, sporting a stunning Spiderman backdrop said: “Hi, my name is Mason, I have autism and I want people to know how scary the world is.”
The challenge of getting a diagnosis
However, gaining this understanding and support is not easy. A diagnosis can be life changing, it can help explain who someone is and is essential for getting help. But new NHS data suggests that 88,000 people are currently on a waiting list for a diagnosis and we know some people have to wait months or even years.
A quarter (26%) of parents surveyed by the National Autistic Society last year said they had waited more than three years to receive help for their child. New data from the Office for National Statistics suggests that only 29% of people with autism are engaged in some form of work. Without support, life can be incredibly difficult, and many autistic adults and children develop mental health issues, sometimes leading to crisis.
You can find more information on the National Autistic Society website here.