Autism: An invisible disability

On World Autism Awareness Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness and increasing acceptance of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder, improving our understanding of this invisible disability is crucial, writes Lorna Hutchinson.
Photo Credit: Pixabay

By Lorna Hutchinson

02 Apr 2019

Autism is a complex neurological disorder for which there is no cure.

It raises a myriad of challenges in the lives of both those who have the condition and their caregivers, but it remains an integral part of the personality of those who have it and undoubtedly makes them unique.

People with autism are diagnosed on a spectrum, which makes the condition hard to narrow down. What may be the characteristics or challenges of one person with autism could be far removed from what another deals with.


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As the saying in the autism community goes, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”

Understanding often only goes as far as the stereotype of the socially-awkward savant, as portrayed in the 80s film “Rain Man” and more recently in series such as “The Good Doctor.”

But autism can range in severity from sufferers with, for example, severe cognitive impairments who are unable to communicate, to those who can live relatively unhindered lives, albeit with certain challenges in communication and social interaction.

Understanding should not only encompass autistic people, for whom daily life can often be an overwhelming maelstrom of sensory overload, communication difficulties, challenges in social interaction and anxiety. There should also be a thought spared for parents and caregivers.

"While a wheelchair is a clear sign of physical disability and a guide dog is a sign of visual impairment, there are no unequivocal signs that a person has autism; as such, understanding can often be in short supply"

Parents of autistic children often feel judged.

Situations where their autistic child “melts down” in a public place or does something deemed “inappropriate” can often be a source of unwelcome comments and stares.

While a wheelchair is a clear sign of physical disability and a guide dog is a sign of visual impairment, there are no unequivocal signs that a person has autism; as such, understanding can often be in short supply.

Awareness and acceptance of this invisible disability is key. The more understanding people have for Autism Spectrum Disorder, the more inclusive life will be for those who have the condition.

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