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  • 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.

    Sensory difficulties:

    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.”

  • This is a question we get asked a lot. Making friends can be difficult and it can be even more difficult to explain because it isn’t really a step by step process as every friendship is a little bit different.

    Making friends and socialising should be fun and so instead of trying to socialise because you “should” or socialising in the same way you think everyone else does the first thing you need to do is to work out what kind of friends you would like and what sort of activities you would like to do with them.

    If you find starting a conversation a little bit awkward or you dislike unstructured activities (e.g “hanging out down the town”) a really good start can be to find people who have a similar interests to you and socialise through that interest. For example, if you are interested in computers why not join a local computer club? Or if you know of people with a similar interest invite them to do something or have a conversation about that topic.

    This puts structure on the social situation, gives you something you are comfortable talking about and, most importantly, will be enjoyable! When we have fun, we are more relaxed and so by doing something you enjoy you may become more relaxed to and begin to enjoy social situations with the individual or groups you are socialising with.

     

     

  • This all depends on where you live and what you are interested in!

    If you are in school, there may be after-school clubs which you could get involved with. If you are in third level education, there are sure to be lots of college societies, catering for almost every interest, which you may like to join.

    In most communities around Ireland there are also lots of clubs and organisations which you could consider joining from sports clubs to voluntary organisations and interest groups.

    The best place to start is Google – find out what there is in your locality for things which interest you and why not try one out! Starting somewhere new is daunting for everyone and you may not like what you choose straight away or maybe even at all! Give it a chance though and if you don’t like one activity, try another!

  • This is a tough question! Not unlike making friends, there is no fixed formula or rules for every single social situation.

    In terms of what is appropriate and inappropriate this can vary depending on how well you know a person, where you are at a specific time, who else is there and what is happening.

    That said, there are kind of some unwritten rules which apply to most social situations and are always useful to keep in mind. A good discipline with these points is that if you are unsure if you should or shouldn’t do something it is probably a good idea to err on the side of caution and follow these steps:

    • Respect a person’s personal space and try not to intrude on it
    • Avoid sharing very personal information, such as financial, health or family business or religious or political views, especially if you do not know the person too well
    • Avoid asking people about their financial, health or family business or religious or political views
    • Try to remember that for a good conversation to take place it is important only one person speaks at a time – try not to interrupt anyone when they are speaking
    • Even if you disagree with someone try to avoid correcting the person or forcing your opinion on them
    • It is always a good idea to return any question you are asked so if someone asks “How are you” after you tell them how you are, remember to ask “and you” or “and how are you?”. This is not only polite but also helps to keep the conversation going

  • That’s OK! Everyone at times feel very different and finds it hard to relate to those around them – it is part of growing up really! Some of the best friendships are between people who are very different – once both people accept those differences and are not critical, it can actually be really nice to have a friend who thinks differently and enjoys different things.

    That said, if you find it a lot harder to make friends with people you don’t share common interests with that is OK! Never feel you have to fit in or should change – instead look outside your peer group for social opportunities.

  • This is something for you to decide, there is no right or wrong answer.

    If you are thinking about whether you should or should not tell others about your condition, an important thing to remember is that you should not feel like you have to explain who you are or make any apologies for it. If you do choose to tell others it should be because YOU want to and because you feel it will be beneficial to you.

    It can be a very positive experience telling your friends, as it means they may be more understanding or better equipped to help you if you are ever finding something difficult when you are out. It also means you may feel more comfortable just being you. Lots of people have different understandings of what Autism is and many people’s knowledge is extremely limited so don’t be surprised if your friends are surprised or don’t seem to know anything about it. It is always a good idea to give people a little bit of information about what Autism actually is and what they should know – why not print off some pages from this website or direct them to youthhub.asiam.ie so they can gain a greater insight into what you mean. It is also important to explain that you are still the same person and that you don’t want them to make a fuss or treat you any differently

    Also remember to consider how comfortable you are with other people knowing about your diagnosis. If you don’t want your friends to tell others make sure you ask them this and remember to tell only those you trust with the information.

    The great thing about sharing your experiences with friends is that you are not only advocating for yourself but also increasing your friend’s understanding of Autism in general and so blazing a trail for others in your community

  • “What ifs” can often be very scary. If you are someone who experiences lots of social anxiety a big barrier to going out with friends might be thinking about all of the things which may go wrong.

    This may be all you can think about and you might find it hard to actually enjoy whatever it is you are getting up to or you might pull out of going out.

    This is something which you may need some professional support in learning to manage and is definitely something you should talk to others about.

    It may be that you are just anxious about the “What ifs” or something unexpected may happen while you are out and you might panic. You can never plan for every single situation that might happen, and most of the times nothing will go wrong at all, however it is a good idea to chat through some of your “what ifs” with someone you trust, this means you can actually practically think about what you could do if something went wrong so you are prepared for it in the event that it does.

  • We all find it harder to socialise sometimes. This may be because we are tired and so would just prefer to rest or have quiet time or it can be because we are uncomfortable in certain environment e.g. loud nightclubs or find new people or situations harder to manage.

    The main thing is to work out what makes socialising easier for you and try to build your social situations in that manner, e.g. in a quit environment. We can’t always control social situations though and it is OK to opt out of a social situation or to try and manage it in a way that works for you.

  • Some people with Autism like to have the opportunity to spend time with or share experiences with others with the condition. This does not mean you can only socialise with others who have the condition but it is something some people find helps.

    Different areas have different supports in this regard. Many local support groups run youth groups for teenagers and young adults with Autism – find and get in touch with your local group and ask if they do this and if not is it something they would consider facilitating?

    If you are under 16, Foroige runs a number of ASD-Specific Youth Groups which can be found at this link. The Aspergers Syndrome Association of Ireland (Aspire) also runs a number of groups and more information can be found at aspireireland.ie

    If you are an adult in the Dublin region, there is a group which meets on Sunday’s in the Longstone pub who can be contacted at jordand@tcd.ie

    Many counties around the country have different services and opportunities so it is worth running a google search and reaching out to the groups you find

  • This is something which we all spend a lot of time worrying about but what does it even mean? Everyone is different and so how can we all fit together?

    While people with Autism certainly can find it harder to be accepted by peers this does not mean you should try and change who you are to try and “fit in” to what those around you tell you is “normal”

    If you do not feel accepted by a group it is likely that the problem lies with the group, not you. We all get on with different people so it is a better idea to find a group that works for you instead of trying to make yourself someone you are not.

    The main thing in any group situation is that you are doing your best to be courteous and respectful, that you show an interest in the other people in the group and that you try and cooperate with everyone.

     

  • Many people with autism encounter bullying at some point. There are some aspects of autism that leave the individual open to be bullied, such as not understanding who is a real friend and who is not. People with autism do want to make friends, but can often become disengaged because it can be challenging to know all of the social rules. When you join a club, it can often seem like everyone knows the rules, and you don’t. You feel uneasy until you are more comfortable with the activities and the people.

    People with autism can often find it harder to make friends because they have to deal with the sensory environment, they might have attempted to socialize in a similar situation before and felt that they failed at it. There can also be a fear of misunderstanding the conversation. While this happens to everyone once in a while, imagine how stressful it would be if it happened every time you met someone new.

    There can also be the fear of making an inappropriate comment’s without realizing. Think how many times you use sarcasm in a conversation. It could cause a lot of anxiety if the person was trying to use it in their conversations everyday but didn’t understand the ‘rules’ around it.

  • 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!

  • It means that you think differently and your brain has developed a little differently to other people.

    Having Autism is only one part of who a person is – the way you think cuts into everything you do but you still have a personality, abilities and strengths beyond your condition.

    Autism can present challenges in day to day life in a whole range of areas from social communication to interacting with others or dealing with the sensory environment. It can also bring strengths such as abilities in areas that you are interested in, an ability to see things differently to other people and a sense of honesty and loyalty.

    Life with Autism may mean that you need support in some areas or need to do things a little differently to others, however it does not mean that you can’t reach your own personal potential, make a contribution to society and live a happy life!

  • 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!

  • Absolutely!

    People with Autism, when given the right support, can achieve great success. Success looks different for everyone but ultimately it is about reaching our potential and being contented and happy.

    For some people this might look like a big job or fame while for another person it might be finding a job they enjoy and learning to manage some of the challenges Autism presents.

    If you think about that – people who don’t have Autism are exactly the same – success looks different for different people based on individual aspirations and abilities.

    But the really important thing to remember is, even if you have to go about things differently, you can achieve whatever you dream of

  • 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!

  • 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.