Autism: A Story Untold

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Aside from sipping cold beer and working on topping up the tan, this summer’s holiday was memorable for another, more significant reason. While abroad, it came to attention that there was a young boy staying in the same complex, that never left the pool. He was loud, excitable, and from a distance he was just a regular child enjoying his summer holiday. It wasn’t until later that we realised that he was just one of many young children suffering from autism. In some ways it was a lesson in what can be the harsh differences between appearance and reality.

Autism, in all its forms - from Asperger’s syndrome to high-functioning autism - is much more common than first believed, affecting over half a million people in the UK alone. It is a condition that affects people in different ways, sometimes even going tragically unrecognised unless you know what to look for – in young children especially. Some of the main indicators are:

-          Problems with social interaction, social communication, and social imagination.

-          Not drawing the parent’s attention to different objects such as books or toys, or carrying out activities in a repetitive manner – such as lining up toys in a particular order.

-          Behaviour such as biting, pinching, kicking, or self-injurious behaviour.

Asperger’s Syndrome

Asperger’s is a condition that principally affects communication and interaction problems. Whereas you or I when meeting someone, word instantly form an opinion or a judgement, people with Asperger’s become anxious and fretful when doing so. While Asperger’s is a strand of autism, those that suffer from it have fewer problems with speaking, and are often of average or above average intelligence. Despite this, though, it is possible that they may suffer from specific learning disabilities such as dyslexia or dyspraxia, or may struggle with conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or epilepsy.

Raising Awareness

The most important thing is, however, to raise awareness about the young people and adults who deal with it every day of their lives. Sadly, over 40% of children that have had autism at school, have been bullied, and over 50% are not in the ideal educational environment. Regularly people with autism are marginalised and refused the same opportunities as others, just because of their condition. Not only is proper care, help and attention required to help have a marked improvement on their lives, but it is imperative that efforts are made to change an obvious disregard for social equality.

A Joy to Be Around

As our holiday stretched onwards we got to know the little boy from the swimming pool, and his grandparents. At length they spoke of the difficulties that arise from a constant need for attention and companionship, but it was obvious to see the profound joy that he could offer them as well. Ever jolly and ready to offer a smile in your direction, the truth of the matter was that with a little bit of looking after, he could be the most positive, bubbly child you have ever met. Of course, autism effects people in different ways, and some require more attention than others, but at the end of the day, it isn’t that difficult to show that we care.

Ben Johnson

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." - Ernest Hemingway.

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