About Autism

What is Autism?

Autism and Asperger Syndrome are both part of the Autism Spectrum which means that while all people with autism share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people and the world around them. To people with ASD people, places and events are hard to understand and organise. This can cause stress and anxiety. People who have ASD may also experience over- or under-sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours.

Who has autism?

All of us. It is thought that everyone has at least a few traits of autism. These can include not liking certain sounds/smells, pacing/biting nails when anxious, having particular habits and routines and having special interests. It is when these traits become a problem that people may seek a diagnosis of Autism and the help that can come with that. There are around 700,000 people in the UK diagnosed with Autism – that’s more than 1 in 100.

At most, only 1 or 2 people per 200 with ASD have an extraordinary talent like Dustin Hoffman in the film Rainman. These people are said to be autistic savants.

What is Autism Awareness Day?

The UN declared the 2nd of April as World Autism Awareness Day and it has been celebrated every year since 1990. The main aim of World Autism Awareness Day is to raise awareness of Autism and the challenges people with Autism can face. Some places around the world celebrate this day by lighting up iconic buildings and landmarks blue, enforcing the slogan ‘Light It Up Blue’.

There is also Autism Sunday (the second Sunday of February) and Autistic Pride Day (June 18th) which recognises innate potential in all people.

Did you know?

Although nearly everyone says it wrong, Asperger’s is in fact pronounced with a hard ‘g’, like you do in the word ‘good’. This is because Asperger is a German name and there is no soft ‘g’ in that language.

People with autism are much less likely to yawn when they see someone else yawning (contagious yawning). This was thought to be linked with empathy skills but recent research has suggested this is not the case. There are now planned studies to see if there is a gene which links contagious yawning and autism.

Some famous people with Autistic traits

Susan Boyle – who was diagnosed only a year and a half ago

Andy Warhol – was convinced that green cotton underpants felt different to all the other colours, and so, that was all he bought

Albert Einstein – couldn’t bear to wear socks

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – had such sensitive hearing intense sounds often made him feel physically sick

Bill Gates – it is said that Bill rocks when he is concentrating or stressed