Many of you who like to settle down at the end of the day and watch some telly may have noticed a new advertising campaign that tells it like it is. Autism peak body Amaze and the State Government have launched the Australian-first autism education campaign Change Your Reactions, and as a mother of a person with autism, it hits the spot.
World Autism Day is on April 2, but the whole month is focused on raising awareness of a condition that, according to research undertaken by Amaze, causes “significant social isolation with 40 per cent revealing they sometimes struggle to leave the house because they are concerned about being subjected to discriminatory or negative behaviours in the community”. I agree. There were a few years when my son’s behaviour was so challenging we chose to stay close to home rather than manage it under the glare of social scrutiny. It was just easier.
According to the latest ABS data, there’s been a 25.1 per cent increase in autism diagnosis since 2015, and 29 per cent of the participants in the NDIS have autism. Research says about 85 per cent of Australians know someone with autism but many don’t know how to support them.
Amaze chief executive Fiona Sharkie says: “Autistic individuals, like all Australians, want and deserve the opportunity to contribute to and engage with their communities. We have a collective responsibility take action to create these opportunities – whether in schools, the workplace or in the wider community.”
So what does all of this actually mean? It’s simple. Autistic people live everywhere. They go to the supermarket, school, the swimming pool, and some of them work too. But because they see the world differently from neurotypical people and often struggle with sensory and cognitive issues, they need the rest of us to understand that difference is just that. Difference.
The 21st century seems to be jam-packed with international days and months designated for awareness and/or celebration. Seek and you shall find days for social justice, happiness, cancer, discrimination, and bees. Autism Awareness Month may just be another one, but next time you turn on the box or are down the street and see a child jumping and flapping their hands or an adult struggling to cope with their work environment, please take note. There’s often a reason to change your reaction and to wear blue if you choose to on April 2 to create a better understanding of what autism is.
For more information regarding autism support, go to www.amaze.org.au, or on the Peninsula go to the Light Up Autism Foundation at www.lightupautism.org.au