You can never have "Too Much Information" about autism

by Carol Povey - NAS

As part of World Autism Awareness Week we asked Carol Povey, Director for the Centre of Autism at the National Autistic Society, to tell us about their recent film as part of the Too Much Information campaign, which focuses on making life easier for autistic people to use public transport. Read what she shared with us below:

"26 March 2018 marks the start of World Autism Awareness Week and once again the National Autistic Society is launching a new film as part of Too Much Information, our campaign to increase public understanding of autism, this year focusing on unexpected changes."

"Our campaign started in 2016 and was inspired by research that showed whilst almost everyone has heard of autism (over 99% of people!) only 16% of autistic people and their families felt that the public had a meaningful understanding of the daily experience. This gap between awareness and understanding is not just some abstract curiosity; it has a daily, tangible impact on the lives of autistic people and their families."

"The research we undertook with over 7,000 autistic people and their family members showed that 50% of autistic people and families sometimes don’t go out because they’re worried how people will react to their autism. 28% of autistic people have been asked to leave a public place because of behaviour associated with their autism."

"Tuts, stares, disapproving looks – these are the reactions of a public that doesn’t understand autism or why autistic people might be behaving in the way they do. Fortunately, we also discovered that once people seeing someone behaving what they might consider unusual or different to what they expect are prompted to think ‘aha, this might be autism’ they immediately flip from a position of judgement to one of empathy. And so this is what our Too Much Information campaign set out to make happen."

"Although everyone is different, people told us that what they wanted the public to understand about autistic people was they may:

  • React to unexpected changes or events with high levels of anxiety.
  • Be under or oversensitive to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours, which can make everyday life extremely difficult.
  • Find social situations and change a challenge, sometimes leading to extreme levels of anxiety.
  • Benefit from extra time to process and respond to communication.
  • Experience a ‘meltdown’ if overwhelmed by anxiety or sensory overload."

"Since we launched in 2016, we have focused on these aspects of autism, reaching over a hundred million people with our films and messages. We’re starting to see a shift in public understanding but we know more still needs to be done."

"This year we are focusing on the anxiety that autistic people can experience with unexpected changes. Our film reflects what our latest research tells us, that 75% of autistic people say that unexpected changes like delays, diversions and cancellations on public transport make them feel socially isolated."

"We want people to know that they can make little changes to their behaviour that can make a huge difference for autistic people. As the star of our film, Saskia, says “Unexpected changes make me feel anxious, they make me panic…It can be something as simple as not staring, or giving me some space that can make life so much easier."

"So, what are we asking you to do as people who already work in the autism sector? You can watch and share the film with your friends and family. You can take one of our pledges at www.autism.org.uk/toomuchinformation. And you can help us reach a public that still needs to understand autism better."

"We’ll keep on fighting for a society that works for autistic people and we hope you will too."

For more information on Voyage Care's specialist autism support click here or call our enquiry team on 0800 035 3776.