World Autism Awareness Week: What is Autism?

Autism Awareness Week

As part of World Autism Awareness Week, we here at wanted to delve into some of the questions surrounding autism.

World Autism Awareness Week

What is autism?

Autism is a developmental condition which affects the way an individual interacts, communicates and behaves. Approximately 1 in every 100 people in the UK has Autism, with more boys being diagnosed with the condition than girls. The exact cause of the condition is unknown, however it is though that complex genetic and environmental factors are involved.

Those with autism may have difficulties understanding non-verbal communication such as facial expressions or gestures, understanding emotions in others and starting conversations. They are often very literal and can sometimes have problems understanding jokes or sarcasm. People with autism like sticking to the same routine and changes in their routine can trigger outbursts. Children with autism may also lack interest in other children and will tend to play alone. Autistic people may experience some form of sensory sensitivity which is where a person’s senses are either intensified or under-sensitive. For example, they may find certain sounds very loud or distracting. More signs of the condition can be found on The National Autistic Society website.

Autistic people often have different levels of learning disabilities and can affect all aspects of life. Some will be able to live a fairly independent life, whilst others may require lifelong support. Associated conditions with autism include dyslexia, dyspraxia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

What is Asperger syndrome?

Asperger syndrome is a form of autism and affects social communication, social interaction and social imagination. People with Asperger syndrome usually experience fewer problems with speaking and are of average or above average intelligence. They may also have specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia or other conditions including ADHD. You can find out more about Asperger syndrome on The National Autistic Society website.

How is autism diagnosed?

Autism is diagnosed by health professionals such as a paediatrician or psychiatrist. A GP can refer you to a specialist to make a diagnosis.

Usually, people with autism are diagnosed as children. This is helpful as it allows them to access services and support.

Museums reach out to people with learning disabilities

museums-reach-out-to-people-with-learning-disabilitiesMuseums and cultural organisations should improve access for people with learning disabilities.

Access to the arts, galleries and museums for people with learning disabilities should be improved, according to a new report.

The research, conducted by Lemos&Crane, surveyed 81 arts organisations, museums and galleries across London and found that 46 per cent of mainstream (non-disability specialist) respondents didn’t offer any activity for people with a learning disability.

The report said: “Very few mainstream organisations had an embedded, publicised, ongoing stream for people with learning disabilities or had facilities for those with learning disabilities to access public events.

“Many organisations seem to be doing little or nothing. The general landscape of provision is patchy and halting.”

What’s more, the survey also revealed that cultural organisations found it difficult to reach people outside of the education system, resulting in those with learning disabilities being particularly underserved.

Despite this, the survey did report some areas of excellence in specific organisations, but museums and galleries are urged to do more to improve access and engagement in learning disability sectors.

Alistair Brown, policy officer at the Museums Association, said that organisations that want to get involved in the project should create a short case study outlining:

  • A description of project objectives
  • How the project has been promoted
  • How the project has been funded
  • How the organisation has worked with stakeholders
  • Outcomes and evaluation

One idea that arts and cultural organisations could employ is the use of assistive technologies that work to educate youngsters with learning disabilities through a series of digital software tools.

(Credit image: Thinkstock/megainarmy)