At Freedom Care we are delighted to have recently celebrated World Autism Awareness Day! Held on Thursday April 2nd, this eighth annual day is a significant time for autism organisations around the world who use it to run unique fundraising and awareness-raising events for those with complex health needs. According to Mark Lever, Chief Executive of The National Autistic Society (NAS): “World Autism Awareness Day is the most important date in our calendar, the one time each year when the world comes together to think about autism and how we can make the world a better place for people living with the condition”.

NAS recently commissioned a YouGov poll of 2159 UK adults, to find out more about awareness of autism in the UK. It revealed that over 99% of people have heard of autism and 44% know someone on the autistic spectrum. This compares favourably with a similar survey in 2005 (1000 UK adults polled by nfpSynergy) which showed that 91% of people had heard of autism and 33% knew someone on the spectrum.

Overall this means a welcome 9% increase in the number of people who have heard of autism in the past 10 years. For 27% of respondents, this increased awareness has developed by knowing someone with the condition, 19% through a documentary, film or book, and 14% by word of mouth.

However, despite the increased awareness, just 4% have a friend with autism and only 3% have a colleague or classmate with autism. This leads NAS to the conclusion that there is still a long way to go before autism is understood and people on the spectrum are fully integrated into communities and able to lead the life they choose.

A separate NAS survey indicates that people with autism still feel locked out of mainstream society. 52% of respondents said they strongly agree that the general public does not have a good understanding of the condition and a further 35% agree – a total of 87% of respondents altogether.

Mark Lever agrees: “As our supporters frequently tell us and the poll confirms, there is still a long way to go before autism is fully understood and people with the condition are able to participate fully in their communities. All too often we still hear stories of families experiencing judgemental attitudes or individuals facing isolation or unemployment due to misunderstandings around autism.

“If we’re really going to improve the world for people with autism, we need to move away from focusing on simply raising awareness and ensure we are building understanding of autism and the different ways it can affect people. This has to happen in every sector of society, from health and social care, to culture and the media. Better understanding of autism would improve every part of the life of a person with autism, increasing the chances of an early diagnosis and support, lowering incidents of bullying at school and improving employment prospects. Autism can have a profound impact on an individual and their family, but the right understanding and support can make all the difference and ensure that they live full lives as part of their local communities.”

At Freedom Care we welcome every initiative to increase awareness of autism and other mental health care issues, and will continue to play our part in turning possibility into actuality for those in our care with autism and other complex health needs.

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