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All About World Autism Month, The National Autistic Society, and Autism Together

Autism, otherwise known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a range of conditions causing repetitive behaviours, challenges with social skills, nonverbal communication, and speech. But there it isn’t a one-size-fits-all diagnosis. Instead, there are many types and degrees of autism — it’s a spectrum, after all.

Many of you may know that it was Autism Awareness Day (sometimes called Autism Acceptance Day) on 2nd April. However, not many are aware that, thanks to Autism Together, a UK-based organisation, it actually continues for the entire month. So, get ready to learn more about ASD, The National Autistic Society, and how you can help ensure people with autism can reach their full potential in a world currently run by neurotypical people.

A colourful jigsaw puzzle with Autism Awareness stamped in yellow on a red puzzle piece

What Is Autism?

We’ve already covered the basics, so let’s dive a little deeper.

Autism is a lifelong development that affects interactions and communications. Currently, there are roughly 700,000 adults and children with ASD in the country. According to The National Autistic Society, the UK’s leading charity for people on the spectrum and their families, one in 100 people are on the autism spectrum to one degree or another.

As we mentioned, it affects people in different ways. Like everybody, people with the disorder have their various strengths and weaknesses. But they may share the following difficulties:

· Repetitive, restrictive behaviour — The world is unpredictable and often confusing. Hence, people with autism create routines, so they know precisely what will happen at various times. Hand flapping, repetitive pen twirling, opening and closing doors, rocking, and other behaviours are also common.

· Social communication and interaction challenges — Inferring gestures and tone of voice can be difficult. Some people have very limited speech, while others have excellent language skills but find sarcasm difficult. They may struggle to understand abstract ideas and may need more time to process information or answer questions. They could find it hard to navigate the social world, possibly appearing insensitive and having trouble expressing or interpreting emotions.

· Hyper-focused hobbies or interests — Often, these appear from an early age. People with ASD may become experts in their chosen interest and typically love sharing what they know. They can do extremely well at work and academically, but they can neglect other areas of their lives when they become particularly engrossed. And no, not everybody with autism is hyper-focused on trains or maps.

· Under- or over-sensitive to touch, sound, light, or taste — Other factors that could cause sensory overload are pain, colours, and temperatures. For instance, someone with autism might find background music in restaurants too distracting or unbelievably loud. Thankfully, there are loads of small adjustments that business owners etc. can make to ensure their environments are more autism-friendly.

· Shutdowns and meltdowns — When things get too much, they can shutdown or meltdown, both of which are incredibly exhausting and intense. The latter occurs when somebody is totally overwhelmed by the situation and loses behavioural control. It could be physical (biting, kicking, etc.) or verbal (crying, screaming, etc.). They’re usually wrongly interpreted as temper tantrums in children. Shutdowns appear less intense from an outsider’s perspective, but they can be as debilitating. It’s often described as “switching off.”

· Overwhelming anxiety — It’s particularly difficult for adults with autism. It can affect someone physically and psychologically, impacting their quality of life.

The Purpose of World Autism Acceptance Month

World Autism Acceptance Month starts on World Autism Awareness Day (2nd April) and aims to improve acceptance for autistic people, while highlighting the important work ASD-focused charities do. Everything from fundraisers and talks take place to spread the word and help the world become a friendlier place for those with autism.

In a sentence, it’s a month committed to ensuring that people with ASD can reach their full potential wherever they live.

The National Autistic Society and Their Work

The National Autistic Society, established in 1962, is the United Kingdom’s leading charity for people with autism and their families. They provide guidance, support, and advice, alongside campaigning and fundraising for improved opportunities, rights, and services to shape an autism-friendly country.

They are committed to changing attitudes and transforming lives to help the UK’s 700,000 autistic people. How are they doing that, we hear you ask? Like this:

· Providing supported and residential living services and centres for adults on the autism spectrum.

· Opening specialist, free, and independent schools across the country to support those aged four to 21. Currently, they have locations in Lambeth, Kent, Staffordshire, South Yorkshire, Hertfordshire, Middlesex, and Berkshire.

· Offering a range of specialist assessment and diagnostic services for adults, young people, and children. These centres are now called Lorna Wing Centres but were originally named the Centre for Social and Communication Disorders. They even provide autism diagnostic training for qualified professionals.

· Providing work programmes, resources, and training for jobseekers on the autism spectrum. Plus, they’re offering the Autism at Work Programme for employers looking to for a diverse workforce.

· Learning, collaborating, and sharing best practices with professionals through training, consultancy services, and conferences.

Since the charity’s birth, they’ve opened 116 volunteer-led branches around the UK, ensuring their efforts are as widespread and beneficial as possible.

Want to Get Involved With World Autism Awareness Month? Do So With Autism Together!

If you’re wondering how to get involved this World Autism Acceptance Month, you’ve come to the right place. Autism Together have ensured you have plenty of ways to help make the world a friendlier place for people with autism.

Here are several ways you can fundraise and highlight the crucial work Autism Together do for our communities:

· Get Active for AutismThis 30-day challenge is a fantastic way to keep active and healthy while supporting an amazing cause and raising autism spectrum disorder awareness. The aim is to run, walk, or cycle 54 miles during April! All you need to do is log your miles once you’ve done them and try to reach your target (or exceed it!).

· DonateIf you don’t feel like taking on the Get Active for Autism challenge, you can always donate to Autism Together. Every donation makes a difference to the people the charity support. Your money will go toward everything from sports equipment to art supplies to sensory toys to cycle paths to additional services not covered by statutory funding to greenhouses to so much more.

· Fundraising — There are plenty of ways you can fundraise. Use Autism Together’s A-Z of fundraising ideas to kickstart your project and raise some much needed funds in a creative way.

What Are You Waiting For? April is The Month to Spread The Word

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