Monday, 29 March 2021

World Autism Awareness Week

Autism, autistic spectrum, neurodiverse; it’s likely that you’ve seen these terms popping up more and more over the last year or so. But what do these terms mean, and who has it … and why are we posting about it? 


March 29th to April 4th is World Autism Awareness Week. In the UK alone, there are around 700,000 adults and children who have been diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD); in the US the number is close to 5.5 million.


As with most things of this nature, the term is firmly rooted in the medical model, so can be a little misleading. Symptoms of ASD are broad – hence 'spectrum’ – affecting communication, anxiety levels, and sensitivity to stimuli, among other things. But it’s not a disease – you can’t catch it, and it’s not something to be cured. There is some debate as to whether it’s a disorder at all, or simply a set of behaviours that are naturally part of the broader spectrum of human behaviours.

Some people’s brains work slightly differently to others (no surprises there), and this causes the symptoms – yes, medical model term again – that’s collectively known as ASD. Neurodiversity is a more inclusive term for people with ASD, and covers a range of conditions, not only autistic spectrum. Whatever term you use, the genes responsible for ASD aren't 'negative'; they have also been linked to increased creativity and heightened problem-solving; many of the things we take for granted today, from technology, to art, and the sciences, were only made possible because the inventors – knowingly or otherwise – had ASD genes or were neurodiverse.

Awareness of neurodiversity and the issues faced by neurodiverse individuals is growing all the time, helped in part by the number of celebrities revealing that they, too, are on the autistic spectrum – from actors including Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah, to tech icon and philanthropist Bill Gates, and trailblazing scientist and activist Temple Grandin (a name many Hubble & Hattie readers will be familiar with) – but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As is often the case, it seems creativity and neurodiversity are natural companions. There are also more and more adults being diagnosed with ASD, as people recognise their own signs and symptoms.

Depictions of autism, both in literature and film, are also becoming more common, and this has partly helped raise awareness on social media, and levels of discussion. Not only does this mean that there is a much better understanding of the day-to-day challenges faced by people on the spectrum amongst non-neurodiverse individuals, but also that sources of help and advice for neurodiverse people, their families and friends, is more accessible than ever. And that’s a very good thing.


You may be surprised to hear that Veloce has a title that is particularly relevant this week; A Cat to Kill For. This murder mystery (with a healthy dose of rom-com) from G W Miller features a main character with Asperger syndrome: Emily. We won't give away too much here, but Emily, and struggling Watkins Glen classic car dealer Gavin Campbell, are drawn into a world of mystery filled with colourful characters, and shady dealings … and all because of a special Jaguar E-Type! Of course, just as in real life, Emily is defined by her Asperger's; her condition may be reflected in her body language and conversations, but, as you'll find out in the book, she still has the smarts!

If you have children or younger relatives with ASD, Hubble & Hattie Kids! publishes a wonderful series of children's books written by Lucy Martin. Lucy has drawn on her own experiences of living with ASD to create an engaging, colourful, and fun world that helps provide children with real-life help. The stories provide examples of ways to deal with situations that children with ASD may find difficult, but that are relevant to all children. Alice also has a genuinely helpful facebook page, offering tips and advice for neurodiverse children, plus a whole lot more that's educational, enlightening, and just plain fun – and it's not just for kids. We can't recommend it highly enough; 'follow the dinosaur' on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Alice.Aspie1


If you’d like to find out more about autism Aspergers, and other autistic spectrum conditions, the following organisations can help;


National Autistic Society (UK) 

https://www.autism.org.uk/


Autism Europe (EU)
https://www.autismeurope.org/

Autistic Spectrum (AUS)
https://www.autismspectrum.org.au/


Autism New Zealand (NZ)
https://www.autismnz.org.nz/



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