Autism Community appeals for greater understanding and support in 2021

  • Survey by National Autism Charity reveals high levels of structural inequality and discrimination, low support
  • 74% believe the government does not take a coordinated approach to supporting autistic people
  14th December 2020 Ireland’s National Autism Charity AsIAm has made a Christmas appeal for funds, revealing results of a survey showing the greatest barrier autistic people face is lack of public understanding of the condition.   COVID-19 has brought stark challenges for the autism community with the loss of routine and predictability, coupled with the removal of supports from school and the health service because of the pandemic. The survey of 500 Autism ID Card holders asked autistic people and their families to shed light on their experiences of being autistic in Ireland.  
As many autistic people struggle to understand and manage concepts such as social distancing and facial coverings, they have found that lack of public awareness, understanding and acceptance of autism has presented major challenges for the community:  
–>92% of respondents believe that the Irish public do not understand enough about autism –>37% said the greatest barrier to inclusion was the judgement and attitude of others –>32% of respondents have experienced discrimination as a result of their membership of the autism community.   Responding to the Survey, AsIAm CEO Adam Harris said:
“We hope this annual Autism ID Cardholder Survey will give voice to the lived experience of autistic people and their families in Ireland and will provide an annual mechanism to track the challenges and priorities of our community. A central finding of the survey is that more must be done to change attitudes towards autistic people and enable the public to empathise with our experiences.
 
“Autism can be difficult to understand but the challenges we experience are not. Loneliness, anxiety and a sense of being overwhelmed are all too familiar experiences for many people this year but sadly are persistent realities for our community. Creating greater understanding is key to an inclusive society” he added. 
  1 in 65 people in Ireland are autistic and yet significant shortfalls in government support can lead to many people being unable to play a full and active part in their community. Respondents to the survey reported persistent structural inequalities: –>63% felt the health system was not inclusive of autistic people –>53% of respondents believed the education system was not inclusive of autistic people –>70% of adult respondents reported that they were underemployed and 56% said the world of work was not inclusive of the autism community –>20% were living in accommodation which did not meet their needs “In all 74% of respondents felt the government did not take a coordinated approach to supporting the autism community. Autistic people face persistent barriers to accessing basic supports in health, education, work and housing which are not experienced by non-autistic people. We must build back better after the COVID-19 pandemic and we can do this by putting in place a National Autism Strategy” Mr Harris concluded.   The greatest priorities for respondents were for AsIAm to focus on building public understanding and addressing social isolation, which has been heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic.   The Charity is appealing for support this Christmas to enable their work in advocating and supporting autistic people through COVID-19 and beyond. Members of the public can donate online at AsIAM.ie or by texting ASIAM to 50300 to donate €4. Texts cost €4. AsIAm will receive a minimum of €3.60. SP Like Charity. Helpline 079 6805278  
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