Ten years ago, I was not aware of autism. Ten years ago, the adults with whom I now meet to discuss their social and health care services and needs, were struggling day to day with the challenges of autism. Most are still struggling today, only now I am aware of them. Conscious of their struggle, I cannot sit idly by. Today, 2 April is the seventh Annual World Autism Awareness Day. One day each year to raise awareness of what for a lifetime a person with autism confronts. Autism is a lifelong condition. This means that a child with social and/or behavioural challenges of autism becomes an adult with these same autism challenges. The adults with autism whom I have had the pleasure to meet are generally honest, helpful, polite and kind. Many are also vulnerable, fearful and nervous. They persevere against the odds and are often frustrated. Meeting these adults with autism and their family members has taught me more about autism than I could ever learn from a textbook or academic article. Their hopes and fears, strengths and weakness are imprinted in my thoughts and direct my actions for change. The greatest lessons learned and awareness acquired are through personal experiences. On this Autism Awareness Day, I urge you to take the opportunity to talk with and listen to someone with autism and/or their family member. What you will learn may change your life. Hopefully together with this knowledge and awareness we can become instruments for change, to create a safer, more secure and accepting environment for us all.
Valerie D’Astous is a PhD Candidate at the Institute of Gerontology, King’s College London. Her research study focuses on the health care and supportive needs of adults with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Of particular concern for her is investigating how people with ASD are able to maintain their wellbeing following parental caregiving.