Welcome to YouthHub, where you can find out more about living with Autism, hear the stories of others, share your own and have your questions answered
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 your community
Ask us about Work
Ask us about getting support
Ask us about friends and hobbies
Ask us about Autism
We often find people are so happy and interested to learn about Autism, once they are given the information.
There are lots of different ways you can do this but here are just some ideas:
AsYouCan Introduction Guide: We did a handy guide introducing Autism as part of our AsYouCan series as we feel the general public are an essential component of building an Autism-friendly society. You can get your copy, free of charge, here.
Our Videos: Browse the video section of this website – there are many great testimonies, stories and illustrative videos to help give the public a practical insight into Autism
AsIAm Secondary School Workshop: If you are referring to your school community, why not invite AsIAm along to give a Secondary School Workshop? Get in touch with us on firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how we can organise this.
Organise an Event: Organise a fundraiser, information event or meeting in your local area to educate the public more about Autism. For advice on how to do this get in touch with email@example.com
Your Story: Often the most powerful tool for changing attitudes is people’s own stories. Why not consider sharing your experiences with others, if that is something you are comfortable doing – this will give people a really practical understanding of the condition and allow you to have your voice heard!
Telling your story isn’t always easy so its important you do this in consultation with those closest to you and in a way which is comfortable for you – remember you should only ever tell your story because you want to, not because you feel you have to explain yourself.
Businesses, by their definition, want as many customers as possible and want to ensure they stand out from their competitors, so customers keep coming back. Many also have a strong community ethos and are always keen to meet the needs of the community.
For all these reasons, it makes sense for businesses to try to be more Autism-friendly – as people with Autism and their families are a significant population in every community.
Small changes, can make a huge difference for people with Autism. In recent years some very good examples of this have been Autism-friendly screenings (lights up, sound down, able to move around, bring own food etc) in cinemas across Ireland and a recent initiative by some supermarkets to hold Autism-friendly shopping hours (no announcements, no moving of stock etc).
These very small changes not only help people with Autism but often lots of other groups of people too.
So, remember the customer is always right! Don’t be afraid to ask your local business to consider doing something to make things easier for people with Autism in your area. You will know better than anyone what is needed but our AsYouCan guides for businesses may give you and local businesses some ideas.
AsIAm is here to help any organisation which wants to get involved and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org
Real inclusion means people can participate in all aspects of their community. This means it is really important that everyone has an understanding of Autism, not just professionals.
This includes voluntary organisations such as sports clubs or community groups. For so many people, being part of a local team or attending a local group is a major source of pride, social opportunities and enjoyment. They are the backbone of so many communities and so are a vital part of building an Autism-friendly community or society.
Many groups are led by really super people who would be very happy to make small changes, if they were just asked or understood why this was important. Examples of such changes might be:
- Providing visual or step by step instructions
- Making sure everyone in the club understood Autism
- Providing a person with as much information as possible to prepare for an event
- Ensuring there are quiet spaces to go to if a person is overwhelmed
Why not ask your club to learn more? We have a handbook for local organisations, which can be downloaded here.
Over the last number of years we have seen much greater public awareness of Autism. It is a word nearly everyone has heard at one stage or another, many people may know someone with Autism, while many others may know of fictional characters with the condition.
This is positive in that awareness is the first step to real inclusion for people with Autism. However a big challenge is many people still don’t fully understand Autism.
In other words lots of people have heard about it but many people cannot explain it or may not really grasp what the condition is or how it impacts on people’s lives. Many people may have a very clear picture of Autism in their head but may not realise that no two people with the condition are the same or that it is a Spectrum which affects different people in different ways.
Of course, this makes things harder for those with Autism as it means we can meet many barriers which people are not even aware of or are a result of people not understanding. The best way we can change this is by telling our stories and encouraging the public to learn more, realise why it is important to understand and not be afraid to ask questions.
That’s what we are here for!
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.”
It all depends on what support you require.
Some supports are funded by the Government, others by charitable organisations and others are private (in other words need to be paid for). Young adults with Autism can access a range of services based on their own circumstances, geographical location and diagnosis. It is worth mentioning that accessing some support is more difficult than it should be.
Below are just some example of public / charitable services which may be of interest to you:
Mental Health: If you need support in the area of mental health or are feeling low or down it is really important to try to access support. Their are a range of organisations and services which can assist you. To see a complete list check out this useful guide from SpunOut.ie
Employment: If you are seeking support in accessing the jobs market as a person with Autism, there are a number of services which you can access, below are some examples:
Aspire Ireland provides a career development programme for adults with Aspergers Syndrome / High Functioning Autism to find out more visit AspireIreland.ie
Specialisterne Ireland is a non-profit, specialist recruitment agency for adults with Autism with abilities in the areas of IT, Computer Science or analytical thinking. To find out more visit ie.specialisterne.com
The National Learning Network provides a number of courses to help prepare people for work or further education, for more information check out their website here.
Employability: The nationwide EmployAbility Service provides an employment support service for people with a health condition, injury, illness or disability and a recruitment advice service for the business community. To find your local service visit here.
Further Education: If you are seeking to access further education you may be able to access supports in doing so. There include:
DARE: The Disability Access Route to Education is a support structure for people with Autism entering 3rd level. Under the scheme it is possible to qualify for reduced points entry, as well as getting support when you get to college. To find out more click here.
College Disability Office: Most colleges will have a disability officer or disability office who can support you in undertaking your studies. Prior to beginning college make sure to ask who this is and get in touch
Independent Living Services & Residential Services: If you are seeking supports in developing your independent living skills or accessing residential services, you may be able to access a local service provider. For more information please see the HSE website.
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 email@example.com
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
Ireland does not have an Autism registry, this means we do not formally record the number of people diagnosed with Autism in Ireland. As well as this, we do not ask people if they have Autism on the Census.
As a result, it is impossible to give a definitive number. However generally it is estimated that around 1 in 100 people have Autism. A recent prevalence study, conducted by Irish Autism Action and Dublin City University, found approximately 48,000 people in Ireland have Autism.