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Autism Awareness Week 2020

We're all different

‘Everyone is different’ is a phrase that we hear constantly. We all have different personalities, different interests, different strengths and challenges, and different feelings and reactions to situations.

How one person feels and reacts to a situation is very different from the experience of another but that doesn’t mean that any of these experiences are more right or wrong. Autism is just a label for a specific way in which you might experience the world differently, but it doesn’t mean that it’s any less valid than anyone else’s experience.

Difference is not a bad thing but something that should be celebrated and encouraged, if we were all the same the world would be a very boring place. Across various professions the value of being able to see and experience things differently is being recognised and sought. MI5 recognise and see the strengths that many people with Autism have; of having great attention to detail, an amazing memory and being highly focused. They are, therefore, actively recruiting individuals with Autism. The areas of technology, engineering and science along with many creative industries are also realising that difference and thinking outside the box gives them an edge over competitors.

The current Coronavirus situation is giving us all an insight into how some people with Autism experience daily life. At the moment, for many of us there is great uncertainty. Our usual routines and structures have disappeared and we have no clear timescale as to when this will end. Many people are being asked to do different jobs with little to no preparation, and no real idea of how long they are expected to do them for. For many people with Autism these are frequent daily experiences. The world may be an anxiety inducing place generally, they might not be sure of what is going to happen or why or how long it will last. They might be asked to do something without enough information to know what to do or what is expected of them, which can understandably cause significant anxiety.

When any of us feel anxious we behave in similar ways that serve to bring us comfort, reassurance and safety. Currently we may not want to leave our homes as they may be the only place where we feel safe, the outside world suddenly seems very dangerous. For many people with Autism they may often only feel safe in their home and be reluctant to leave it to venture into other unknown environments. Whether we have Autism or not, we may create routines and structure to provide some consistency in an uncertain world; breaking from our laptop for a cup of tea at ten thirty every morning or finishing the day by watching the same TV programme. Imposing order and predictability creates reassurance that even though everything feels different, we still have something that stays the same and we can control.  

Human behaviour is universal, there’s always a reason behind it. We all act to communicate and get our needs met, but maybe just in different ways. Having Autism is a difference, not a deficit.

Katharine Rice, Specialist Practitioner

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