RSS Feed

Debunking Myths for World Autism Awareness Week 2015

Posted on


This week is World Autism Awareness Week. Autism is a developmental disorder that affects over 1 in 100 people in the UK.

Autism affects how a person communicates and relates with others, which can make socialising difficult. Other characteristics of autism include taking things literally, struggling to interpret facial expressions and tone of voice, and a fondness for routines and structure. Some people with autism will also have learning disabilities, but others won’t.

Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) means that not everyone experiences autism in the same way, as there are different levels and types along a spectrum.

Polls suggest that 87% of people affected by autism think the general public has a bad understanding of the condition. The National Autistic Society (NAS) and many other organisations and charities attempt to change this each year, and raise awareness of autism and what it means to live with it.

There are still a lot of myths about autism, caused in part by media and popular culture. For example the film ‘Rain Main’, in which Dustin Hoffman plays an autistic character with extraordinary abilities with things like memory, counting and calculating. This leads on to the first myth about autism:

Myth: Everyone with autism is a ‘genius’ or has ‘savant’ skills

‘Savant syndrome’ is the name now given to characteristics such as those shown in Rain Main, where someone demonstrates exceptional skills and abilities. Some people with autism do have these abilities, such as Stephen Wiltshire, who can draw an accurate and detailed landscape of a city after seeing it only once. However they are quite rare – only about 1 or 2 in 200 of the autistic population are thought to have savant syndrome.

Myth: Only males can have autism

Autism is 4 times more common in men than women, but women and girls can still have autism. There is research to suggest that females may be less likely than males to receive a diagnosis of autism, even when presenting the same symptoms. It is thought that some autistic symptoms may be missed in girls, as they are more likely to copy the social behaviour of others and autistic behaviour may therefore be masked. There is work being done to raise awareness of autism in girls and to explore the differences in autistic characteristics between boys and girls.

Myth: Autism is only found in children

Wrong. While autism is often diagnosed in childhood and early diagnosis is encouraged, it is not something that you can ‘cure’ or grow out of. Autism and autistic symptoms therefore remain throughout your adult life. Some symptoms can lessen over time, but this does not happen very often. When adults are diagnosed with autism later on in life, it is often a huge relief to understand why they have always felt different or struggled with certain things.

Myth: Autistic people struggle with relationships and prefer to be alone

Not true. People with autism can struggle with social skills, and this can often be mistaken for a lack of interest in making friends. But a survey from NAS in 2012 shows that 65% of people with autism would like to have more friends. People with autism have different interests and preferences around socialising, just like anyone else.

Myth: Autism is a mental illness or intellectual disability

Wrong. Research from NAS suggests that 28% of the public think autism is a mental health condition. A lot of people also think autism affects how intelligent you are. This isn’t true. Some people with autism have learning difficulties or disabilities, and some don’t. And although mental illness is fairly common among people with autism, the condition itself doesn’t affect your emotions or mental health.

Myth: People with autism can’t work or go to a normal school

Not true. Most children with autism go to a mainstream school, and others go to a special educational needs school with more support. It varies depending on where you fit on the autistic spectrum, but many children with autism can do very well at mainstream schools. People with autism can also work if they want to, they just might require some support, as might their employer to learn how to support them in the right way.

Watch this YouTube video to learn more about autism and how it affects people:

To read more about it, have a look at the National Autistic Society website.



Image from

Originally written by myself for Dancing Giraffe

Disabled primary school children twice as likely to be bullied

Recent research suggests that primary school pupils in England with special educational needs are twice as likely as other children to experience bullying.

This research comes from London University’s Institute of Education (IoE), in which they analysed data relating to bullying from two national cohort studies. These studies were:

  • The Millennium Cohort Study, which is tracking the lives of 19,000 UK children born between 2000 and 2001
  • Next Steps, formally known as the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England, which tracks 16,000 people born in England in 1989 and 1990

The study’s findings bring to light not only the instances of bullying, but the ongoing and persistent nature of the bullying.

For example the study found that 12% of seven-year-olds with special needs felt bullied all the time, compared to 6% of non-disabled peers. Read the rest of this entry

New report from disability charity finds disabled people in Britain face ‘hidden housing crisis’

Disabled people face 'hidden housing crisis'

Disabled people face ‘hidden housing crisis’

A new report from Leonard Cheshire Disability uncovers a ‘hidden housing crisis’ experienced by disabled people in Britain.

The report finds that many disabled people are living in accommodation which is ill-designed for their needs, meaning that in some cases, people cannot even access their bedrooms to sleep.

Leonard Cheshire Disability claims that around five million people require a disabled-friendly home, and this number is expected to rise due to our ageing population.

A survey carried about by the charity found that almost three-quarters of people with mobility problems do not have an accessible door into their building, and more than half say that their buildings do not have doors and hallways wide enough for a wheelchair. Read the rest of this entry

New report from international disability charity CBM claims disabled people are one of the world’s biggest ‘untapped resources’

Posted on
Kirsty Smith, CBM UK

Kirsty Smith, CBM UK

A recent report co-funded by Cambridge-based international disability charity CBM UK, claims that disabled people are one of the world’s biggest untapped resources.

This claim from experts in Cambridge follows a study into the costs of exclusion from education for disabled people, as a cause of lower employment levels and opportunities for people with disabilities all over the world.

The report suggests that people with disabilities suffer ‘widespread exclusion as a result of physical, attitudinal, financial and policy barriers’, and as a consequence, they are not able to contribute to the economy of the countries they live in. Read the rest of this entry

Are under pressure doctors’ surgeries striking off the most vulnerable patients?

Posted on



Thousands of patients are being deregistered by their local doctors’ surgeries, due to a lack of GPs who cannot cope with rising demand.

This ‘recruitment crisis’ among GPs means that Britain is short of approximately 8000 family doctors, and surgeries have had no choice but to restrict their geographical care boundaries and deregister patients.

Many of the patients being deregistered are elderly, and have visited the same surgery all their lives. It has also been claimed that it is the most vulnerable or most ‘difficult’ patients that are being struck from registers. Read the rest of this entry

Oxfam in trouble after ‘politically biased campaign’

Posted on


Faux film poster tweeted by Oxfam

Faux film poster tweeted by Oxfam

Oxfam, one of Britain’s leading aid charities, is facing an inquiry by the charity watchdog after it criticised the current government austerity measures.

On Twitter, Oxfam posted an image of a faux film poster, with the heading “The Perfect Storm” and the words “Starring zero hour contracts, high prices, benefit cuts, unemployment, childcare costs”.

The accompanying tweet stated: “Lifting the lid on austerity Britain reveals a perfect storm – and it’s forcing more and more people into poverty”.

Conservative MPs reported Oxfam to the charity watchdog as they regarded their campaign against poverty as ‘politically biased’ against the Conservative government. Read the rest of this entry

Family with disabled Grandson tells David Cameron: ‘Visit our home and you’ll drop the Bedroom Tax’

Posted on

Paul Rutherford with his disabled Grandson, Warren Todd

Paul Rutherford is grandfather to Warren Todd, a 14-year-old boy with a rare genetic disorder, Potocki-Shaffer syndrome.

Paul believes that David Cameron must understand what his family goes through on a daily basis, as David and Samantha Cameron’s son, Ivan, also needed constant care as he had cerebral palsy and a severe form of epilepsy, and died at the age of six in 2009.

Warren also has epilepsy, as well as severe learning disabilities and skeletal problems.

Warren’s grandparents, Paul and Sue, have made a request for David Cameron to visit their home and family, and they make this request without any malevolence, as they can only imagine what the Cameron’s went through when they lost their son.

Paul states: “We want to ask David Cameron to come to our home and visit our family.

“We think if he could see how we live and what we do, and meet Warren, he would change his mind about the Bedroom Tax.”

Read the rest of this entry