Know someone with Autism? Know the word but not what it means? Want to learn more? Welcome to AsIAm YouthHub, where you can find out more, ask questions and hear the stories of people with Autism
Watch: Laragh & Joanne share their stories at National Autism Conference!
AsIAm recently held its first National Autism Conference, exploring the theme of "Empowering Potential". We were delighted... Read More
Step into the shoes of someone with Autism: Autism Experience Exhibition to visit Tallaght Stadium
AsIAm will be bringing our “Autism Experience” Exhibition to Tallaght Stadium on Thursday 19th January (1:00pm -... Read More
Get down the Autism Experience Exhibition in Portlaoise
AsIAm will be bringing our “Autism Experience” Exhibition to the Portlaoise Heritage Hotel on Saturday 26th... Read More
Get down to the Autism Experience Exhibition in Ennis!
AsIAm will be bringing our "Autism Experience" Exhibition to the Temple Gate Hotel, Ennis on Thursday 20th (between 10am and... Read More
Tools and ideas to make your community more Autism-friendly
You will find the words "Autism-friendly" a lot throughout the website - but how can you put it into action? Everyone can... Read More
Ask us about Autism in your community
Ask us about Autism in Work
Ask us about Autism and Socialising
Ask us about Autism
All young people get involved in sports or extra-curricular clubs at some point, it is part of life, a right of passage… however, sometimes it is harder for people with autism to be included in activities in the community.
Many people with autism struggle with coordination skills, making sports difficult. Because of this and the social difficulties that people may face, joining in with sports seem like a daunting task rather than an enjoyable activity.
If there is someone with autism in your club think how you can include everyone. Be aware of language that is used in sports. It could be tempting to shout unkind words, but many people with autism could be put off joining in.
Be aware that there may be aspects of the sport that will take the person with autism a bit longer to get used to. It may they need more time to get used to wearing a helmet in GAA, or a bit more time to get used to playing certain positions in a football team.
Using public transport can be something that everybody finds a little stressful from time to time. You have to stick to a timetable, wait in a busy location, and then find a seat or stand on a crowded service. So, using public transport can present a wide array of challenges.
People with autism struggle with sensory processing and sensory integration, this means that their 5 senses may be over-stimulated or under-stimulated at any given time. This makes a number of aspects of using public transport quite difficult.
Sight – Bright lights and colours can be difficult for a person with autism.
Smell – A person with autism can also feel very uncomfortable if there is a smell they do not like. Think how often sometime gets on a bus eating their fast food dinner.
Hearing – Many people with autism find large crowds difficult. Think of the different noises on public transport. There are beeping doors, tannoy system or the sound of a horn. In a taxi there can be a loud radio or a very chatty taxi man!
Touch – It is quite common for some people with autism to need a certain amount of personal space, it can very stressful and uncomfortable if there are people bumping into them. It is for this reason busy transport services can be very difficult.
Additionally, some people may find a particular texture either very unpleasant or very pleasant and this may impact how well they are able to sit down.
Challenges with communication, Organisational skills, and anxiety can all play a part in making public transport very daunting for someone with autism.
Visiting a supermarket, shop or shopping centre is not easy for people who are on the Autism Spectrum – often shops, by their very nature, can be noisy, unpredictable, and busy and also involve a lot of communication. This can make it very difficult for customers with autism and their families to face going into a shop at all.
If you are arranging to go to your local cinema or shopping centre as a group, maybe try and arrange a time that you know will less busy and make it easier for someone with autism to go with you. When you are planning your trip, rather than hyping it up, try playing it down a little, making it easier for them to prepare to go.
There is a need for a whole- community approach when it comes to autism. A lot of young people will say that their community do not understand them. While people with autism struggle with social skills and anxiety, the general community needs to understand how autism affects people differently and about the wider autistic spectrum.
People with autism can often feel dis-empowered to speak about their autism and their experience of it. You can help YOUR community to have a working knowledge of autism so that people ay stop and think before they judge.
You might think that you are just one person, and how can you make your community become more aware. There is plenty that you can do. Take a look at a few of these ides:
When you go to join clubs and societies, ensure that there is an inclusive culture. You could direct the leaders to the AsIAm website on how to create the inclusive culture for all people, and all abilities to join in the activity.
You could also talk to your local business. Are they inclusive to people with autism and their families. You could direct them to website to help them with small adjustments they could make that will make the whole community inclusive of all people.
You can also spread the words. Spread the message through conversations, social media and pass on your knowledge to at least one person!
As Henry ford said “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”
Many people with autism struggle to find or hold down a job. Some people on the spectrum find themselves underemployed considering their qualifications and abilities. However, the good news is in recent years much work has been done to try and ensure people with Autism are given an equal chance at employment and are supported in the workplace.
People with autism work in many areas. This includes working in Supported Employment, where the adult is assisted to find suitable employment and to prepare for the job through coaching.
Many corporations will now employ people with autism specifically for their exceptional knowledge and skill in software engineering. Among their skills people with autism can be very visual thinkers, and give the highest attention to detail. This can lead to employment in the IT sector with software Management, Testing and Data Logistics. However, people with autism can work in a range of workplaces.
Unless a co-worker has disclosed to you that they have autism, you might not know. This is ok. It is up to the individual if they want to tell you they have autism and is a very personal decision. The person may or may not have told their employer. If someone does tell you that they have autism, remember to see the person first, for who they are, not just because they have autism. They might feel misunderstood and hope that people will be more understanding if they know why they behave in certain way. By disclosing their autism, the employer can then establish working practices which could ease difficulties in the workplace. So, be open to your co-workers and their decisions on whether they disclose their autism or not.
You may believe that a colleague has autism. However, as a co – worker the person will tell you that they have autism if they feel it is right for them.
Asking someone out right may cause distress and anxiety for the person. If you know the person well, and they are comfortable with you, they will probably tell you in their own time.
Yes. The amount of support the person with autism might get depends on the individual’s challenges, and the nature of the job. Support in work could include a colleague acting as a mentor for the person with autism. They could help them with any issue that arises. It could include a greater awareness of autism in the workplace. There are also lots of organisations that offer job mentoring, coaching and assistance. They also offer guidance to employers about how they can make some adjustments in the workplace.
Yes. People with autism have the same employment rights as any other employee. The Employment Equality Acts (1998 – 2015) outlaw’s discrimination on the grounds of disability in employment. This is included in the training and the recruitment period also. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states ‘Parties recognise the right of persons with disabilities to work, on an equal basis with others’.
As well as the Employment Equality Act, Employers are required to take reasonable steps to accommodate the needs of their employees. This means workplaces have to put in practical strategies for an employee with a disability. This could include adapting equipment needed for work, or changing patterns of working.
Even though these laws are in place people with a disability are only half as likely to be at work compared to the of the general working age population. This needs to change.
Job applications are tough for anyone applying for jobs. You are trying to get your talent and abilities across on paper to potential employers.
The whole recruitment procedure can be daunting for someone with autism. Job descriptions can often look for qualities in people that are not directly related to the job, such as a ‘good team player’. This could be off putting for someone even if they have the skills for the actual task.
Sometimes, information is not clear on the application, this could lead to someone with autism finding it difficult such as answering the questions in a comprehensive and concise manner.
It is considered best practice for employers to provide space on job applications for people to provide information about any adjustments they may require in the recruitment phase and in the workplace to help overcome any potential barriers or disadvantages.
When working with a colleague you can make it easier for the person with autism by being a role model to other employees.
Remember that everyone is different, and if you have met one person with autism you have met just one person with autism.
To create a positive working environment, you could:
Support the rest of the workplace to understand and be more aware about Autism. You could look at how can all be supportive in the workplace, such as organising social events that you know are going to be of interest to the person with autism.
You can create an environment that allows the person with Autism to be themselves without worrying that they are being talked about.
You can avoid saying comments like ‘You seem normal; you don’t look autistic.’. Remember that Autism is an invisible condition, and there are a huge range in individual abilities, skills needs and challenges. Just because you don’t see any differences it does not mean that there are not challenges that the person has to overcome every day.
Avoid asking ‘Can you please not flap your hands, or chew your jumper’. Remember that often people with Autism can be hyper or hypo sensitive. This means that certain sounds, textures, taste, smells and lighting may be hard to cope with. One way of coping with it is to release the tension through self-stimulatory behaviours. These can range from flapping hand, waving hands, to running on their toes.
People with autism see the world differently and think differently. It takes people to think outside of the box to find solutions to problems that others may not be able to. For all the challenges and difficulties that autism can bring about to people, it can also provide exceptional skills and abilities that are valuable in some workplaces.
Some skills that benefit the workplace that people with autism often have are high levels of concentration, mathematical, technological or musical abilities, accuracy, close attention to detail and the ability to identify errors. People with Autism can also have an excellent long-term memory, especially for facts. Because people with autism often think very ‘black and white’, honesty and loyalty comes naturally as opposed to dishonesty. All of which are excellent qualities to employees.
Because people with autism may find interview situations difficult due to the social interactions that are required, employer’s may offer a work trial or work experience to the person to assess their skills.
Some people with autism may not work any differently to anyone not on the autism spectrum. They are aware of any strategies they may need to help them through the day, such as going for a walk on their breaks or avoiding certain smells if they cause anxiety.
Some people with autism may work well with a job coach, where they offer support and guidance in the role and are a point of contact between the employer and the employee.
Like anyone there can be many triggers in a workplace. For someone with autism, it can often be the social side that cause anxiety. Understanding people’s body language can be confusing, or knowing how to start and maintain conversations. Also, vary tones of voice and know what language to use, such as deciding whether you are talking to a colleague or your boss can all cause anxiety.
As a colleague you could be aware and keep an eye if you see that the person with autism becomes anxious. Maybe you know a certain computer does not always work, or that the public transport might be delayed during the week, you could let the person with Autism know. Being aware of any support you can give that would lend itself to a positive working environment.
Wow! That is a big question and not one with a simple answer as Autism is a condition we are still learning about all of the time.
The Oxford Dictionary defines Autism as “a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterised by great difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts.”
That is very vague though and still does not really help us get a concrete understanding of the condition or its impact on those who live with it.
So here are some clear points:
- Cause: We still do not know what causes Autism, though there are many theories and much research underway. We do know that there is a genetic element and that Autism can often run in families. It is a condition people are born with, though don’t get diagnosed at birth with, you cannot develop the condition, nor does the condition go away – it is part of who the person is and how they think
- Type of Disability: Autism is a developmental condition (also called disorder) which places it in the same family of conditions such as Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and ADHD. People with Autism may also have other conditions such as an Intellectucal Disability, but this varies from person to person.
- Prevalence: Autism affects approximately 1 in 100 people in Ireland. It is a condition which affects both boys and girls, currently it is estimated that for every 1 girl diagnosed with Autism, there are 4 boys diagnosed – though research continues on whether the condition is more prevalent in boys or under-diagnosed in girls
- Challenges: People with Autism experience a range of challenges and different people have difficulties in different area. People with Autism find social communication, interaction and imagination difficult, often experience difficulties with sensory processing and often like routine or have repetitive behaviours.
- Strengths: Like everyone, people with Autism have strengths and challenges beyond their diagnosis. People with Autism can also have strengths because of the way they think as a result of having Autism. Such strengths include: an ability to focus intensely on areas of interest, creative thinking, attention to detail, creativity and a very clear sense of right/wrong, honesty and loyalty.
- Diagnosis: Autism is diagnosed differently to other conditions in that it cannot be detected during pregnancy or diagnosed using a medical examination. As a developmental condition, it may become evident as a child begins to develop or may only be diagnosed later in life. It is diagnosed by observing a person in a variety of settings and a series of tests led by a team made up of a Psychologist, Speech and Language Therapist and Occupational Therapist (and possibly others). Having some traits of Autism does not mean a person has Autism – Autism is diagnosed as other possibilities are ruled out and the challenges being experiences are significant enough to impact on a person’s ability to manage or interact with everyday life.
- Visible Signs: Autism is invisible. People with Autism do not necessarily look any different to anyone else, though some behaviours people with Autism engage in, such as stimming, may lead to a person standing out from others.
Our Description of Autism
We like to explain Autism as living in a world or a culture which is not really built with you in mind.
If you imagine what it would be like for you to be suddenly placed in a busy train station in China – where the environment is very busy and unfamiliar to you, where it is difficult to interact with other people due to language barrier, where you rely on people stating the obvious or providing signs to navigate or understand what seems obvious to others. If you can imagine the anxiety and stress this might cause, this gives you an insight into what life with Autism is like. The big difference is for a person with Autism the cultural barriers might be what is very day to day for you such as going to a supermarket, going out with friends or using public transport.
When talking about Autism you may hear people using different phrases to refer to those with the condition.
Aspergers Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Classical Autism, High-Functioning Autism or Atypical Autism are just some examples of this.
These are words which try to explain the experience of a certain cohort of those with the condition e.g people with Aspergers Syndrome would traditionally be those who did not experience speech delay and have average or above average intelligence.
In recent years however it has been recognised that no matter how many words you have, every person with Autism experiences the condition in a different way. While a person may be referred to as “high-functioning” they too may face areas where they find it very hard to manage. Equally, a person with “Classical Autism” may find some things very difficult to manage but this does not mean they can not cope well or be very talented in other areas.
For that reason, many people simply use the word “Autism” as everyone with the condition belongs to the one spectrum of experience and experiences similar challenges in different ways to varying degrees.
So instead of getting too caught up in the language, when you are meeting a person with Autism remember you are meeting an individual!
Yes! When society doesn’t fully understand something, often myths and mistruths fill the void.
Some of the myths about Autism come from out-dates or disproved science, other from common misconceptions and others from popular culture. Of course, some myths also come from those who try to make money by making up “therapies”, “supports” or “causes” for Autism without the appropriate qualifications or any basis in science.
It is as important to understand what isn’t true about Autism as what is true – check out our YLT Video on Mythbusters to see what we mean!
Many people with Autism engage in repetitive behaviours. These can be referred to as “self-stimulatory behaviours” but in our community they are often referred to as “stimming” for short.
Stimming is a repetitive physical or verbal action which a person with Autism does to regulate themselves. There is lots of research into the causes of stimming and people have slightly different ideas on what precisely stimming is and why people with Autism do it.
We want to help you understand it though using a simple analogy:
If you consider a computer and what happens when you download lots of files at once – it may slow down, it may freeze and then you may hear the fan going off in the computer. The fan cools the computer down, ensures it doesn’t overheat and helps the computer get back to normal.
In the same way, people with Autism are processing a huge amount of information constantly – from trying to read various social situations, through to all the activity in a sensory environment. The brain can get a little overwhelmed as a result and involuntarily a person with Autism will often begin to stim – this behaviour can look very different in different people from flapping hands to making a noise or running on tiptoes.
When a person with Autism stims it helps to relieve this overload, express how the person is feeling and restore concentration levels. While some people with Autism may need help managing their stimming, if they become over-dependent on it or it prevents them from taking part in day to day activities, many people will describe stimming as extremely relieving and an important self-regulation tool.
So when you see a person stim, avoid staring or drawing attention – its just a person doing what they need to do!
Some people with Autism are described as “non-verbal” though generally “non-speaking” is a much better description.
It is not fully known why some people with Autism do not speak.
Some people may be verbal but find it difficult to form sentences or use language in a functional, day to day manner. Other people with Autism may be able to use language in a written, typed or sign language form but not in the spoken manner. A person may be non-speaking or may develop speech later than other children. Additionally, some people with Autism may become non-speaking if they are experiencing a “meltdown” or are in a stressful situation
Just because a person does not speak, does not mean they don’t have anything to say. Many people with Autism use alternative communication systems such as PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) and Lamh (a sign language for people with Autism) to communicate while others may have their own individual way of expressing themselves.
While not everyone can speak, we all have the capacity to reach out to one another!
When you are in an unfamiliar situation or are unsure what is going to happen in a social situation, you may well get anxious.
People with Autism experience the unknown, the unfamiliar and the uncomfortable on an ongoing basis this means that very day to day activities can cause a person to become very anxious or stressed.
This can be reduced by giving a person as much predictability as possible, reassuring the person and providing a quiet area for a person to go to if they need space.
People with Autism often find it very difficult to predict social situations – in other words to know how to behave, how to expect others to behave and what is likely to happen.
Additionally, many people with Autism find it hard to notice the subtle differences in social situations (e.g the difference between crying with happiness or crying with sadness)
This means that many day to day social situations can cause a lot of stress and anxiety for a person with Autism and so a lot of people with Autism try to limit the unknowns or unexpected in a social situation by sticking to a routine or keeping things the same.
Keeping things the same means less unpredictability which means less stress and anxiety. A sudden change in routine or plans can cause a person with Autism to become very stressed or anxious, not just because the plan has changed but because it leaves the person unsure what to expect next.
People with Autism have the same senses as everyone else, however the way the senses develop or work may be a little bit different.
People with Autism can be hyper or hypo sensitive to their surroundings at any given time. For some people this might mean noises, textures, smells, tastes or sights can be very overwhelming and difficult to process all at once. While others may need very strong noises, textures, smells tastes and sights to get the same imput as others may get from normal levels of sensory activity.
This also means people with Autism often have sensory inputs they like and find relaxing and those which are very hard to manage or even unbearable e.g a crying baby or the smell of perfume.
You might think “we all have things we dislikes” however this isn’t just something a person dislikes, rather it is something which makes it very hard for the person to focus on anything else or cope in their surroundings – think nails down a blackboard but only you can hear it.
All of this means, certain environments, such as crowded corridors or busy bars or restaurants, can be very difficult for a person with Autism to cope in or can be very exhausting
So be SENSEible guys
Not necessarily but possibly.
Autism often co-occurs with other condition.
Some people with Autism also have an intellectual disability. Other people may have another developmental conditions such as Dyslexia, Dyspraxia or ADHD. People with Autism may also have epilepsy or experience bowel problems.
There is lots of ongoing research into this but on practical level it means that every person with Autism has very different experiences. Autism affects everyone differently to begin with. People with Autism also have personalities like everyone else – different strengths and different challenges, and as well as those two variables people with Autism may also be dealing with other conditions.
This is why it is so important not to stereotype but get to know each individual with Autism and their own needs and experiences.
Someone with Autism may talk about one subject a lot if it they are interested in it. It is not known why special interests or obsessions and autism tend to go together.
However, if a person is interested in a certain topic, they are either extremely interested in it or not interested in it at all. Also, when you are learning about a certain subject, such as space, you can learn concrete facts. The facts remain the same to everyone, it is not based on judgement. This can make a subject appealing to someone who has autism.
Being interested and knowledgeable about something can be a good thing. It could help the person direct the type of work they would like to do. However, sometimes it can be difficult if it takes up all of a person’s time and it is inhibiting them from making friends or distracting from work or college.