East of the M60 celebrates World Autism Awareness Day

This year, Tuesday 02 April is (other than the 39th anniversary of Piccadilly Radio’s launch) is World Autism Awareness Day. In the UK, there are 600,000 people with an Autism Spectrum Condition of some description. As a fellow autie, I believe that persons on the Autism Spectrum never get fair representation in public life, and in the benefits system (possibly made even harder from this week forward thanks to the abolition of DLA). The problem – and great joy – is that there is no homogenous form of autism, and this baffles the populace as much as the ruling classes. Which is why Social Security provision doesn’t fully address these concerns, leaving some worse off than they should be. (I shall leave the politics for another post).

The Autism Spectrum for absolute beginners:

  1. An Autism Spectrum Condition is a lifelong condition: it may change subtly over time as the person gets older.
  2. The Autism Spectrum is based on the Triad of Impairments, as per Dr. Lorna Wing’s (1981) model. These involve impairments in social relationships, social communication and imagination.
  3. There are varying degrees of ASCs: some may be unable to speak and/or need extra support, others may be eloquent and/or be able to live independently.
  4. Some people on the autism spectrum may have sensory problems: extraneous conversation or engine noises may cause distress. They may not enjoy being held or close physical contact.
  5. More than one condition may be part of his/her ASC: he or she may have Classic Autism complemented with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or Asperger’s Syndrome and Dyspraxia (as per Donna Williams’ ‘Autism as a Fruit Salad’ model).
  6. Some may have intense interests: it may be trains, analogue photography or 1970s crisp packets, but some people could be engrossed in their interests to a point where he or she pursues them to the disadvantage of others and their daily living.
  7. Some people may have exceptional abilities in one field, though have ordinary abilities in several others. Not all people on the autism spectrum are like the late Kim Peek: some may be adept at maths like he was, but others could be excellent artists, comedians, academics or musicians for example.
  8. Anything said or read may be taken literally: a Day Rover ticket may be seen by some people as a purpose of travelling by bus, train or tram all day, from the first to the last journey. An All Day Breakfast could be eaten ‘all day’ (which I personally don’t recommend as the bacon would be cold by 5pm).
  9. Unaware of how to address persons: he or she may be unaware of how to address people – for instance, parents, Members of Parliament, bus drivers, football referees or siblings.
  10. Some people may have a regular routine and may be upset by any deviation: he or she may be inconsolable if his or her bacon muffins are cut in half instead of being left uncut. Some would like to watch the same Only Fools and Horses episode or insist on playing King Trigger’s underrated 1982 minor hit The River.

I could elaborate on this further, but, as I am aiming this post towards general readers rather than the converted, I kept each point to a minimum and in concise form (which is very unlike Stuart Vallantine, of course).

One would wonder where I stand on the spectrum: pretty much on the high functioning end, having been diagnosed with Semantic Pragmatic Disorder in 1986. Some reckon ‘Asperger’s Syndrome’, others, ‘Gifted, Twice Exceptional’. The latter obviously means having some autie traits (for the purpose of this article by the way) but intense talent in other areas. For example, one could have an autism spectrum disorder yet produce comedy scripts worthy of Eddie Braben, Miranda Hart, David Renwick, Andrew Marshall or Peter Kay at the age of seven. (Holy ****, that’s my intense interest in television, and ’80s music before then – blown it now!).

Further Information

For anything of a more detailed nature about yours truly, you can find out more on ‘What SPLD Means to Me‘, a treatise on my life with Semantic Pragmatic Disorder. Or you can visit my bog standard website. For further reading, I also recommend the following blogs, personal accounts and websites below:

  • Temple Grandin: the website of Dr Temple Grandin;
  • Donna Williams: personal website and portfolio of leading autism consultant;
  • National Autistic Society: the website of the UK’s leading charity for persons and parents affected by autism spectrum conditions;
  • Potential Plus: formerly the National Association of Gifted Children. Offers support to parents and children who are gifted;
  • Jessica Kingsley Publishers: leading independent publisher of books on autism spectrum conditions and similar subjects.

S.V., 01 April 2013.

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