Our #UnderstandMore film released for World Autism Awareness Week was developed with autistic people and family members. The scenes were based on real experiences from the group who advised the film. It turns out that their experiences are quite common. This is what research tells us...
1. Thinking differently is a strength
Research has proven that autistic people think differently. We know that they can be better at concentrating, identifying rules and patterns, using visual information and remembering facts. In fact we have seen some of these qualities in autistic babies! Many autistic people go on to develop special interests with these skills - for our character it is origami!
2. Autistic people experience senses differently
We know that more than 9 in 10 autistic people experience smells, touch, tastes and sounds differently. It can bring both benefits and challenges. Something like smelly food or drink on an already noisy train could be too much for some people.
3. Autistic people are better at detecting sounds
Being sensitive to sound can be quite difficult in daily life as it is hard to avoid. Many autistic people, like our character find headphones help to block out noise or focus on a piece of music.
4. Public transport can be a barrier
Many autistic people find busy public transport overwhelming. It can stop them from going where they want to. We found a study that showed many autistic young people don't go to their chosen college because the journey is too difficult. Our character travels by tube but finds it hard.
5. Autistic people feel judged
Research shows that many autistic people and family members experience stigma. We know that stigma can lead to autistic people being bullied at school or ignored in employment. We know that parents experiencing stigma can isolate themselves and their family, and it can have affect a child's outcomes. One of our studies is working with parents to reduce the effects of stigma.
6. Animals make socialising easier
Some small studies have suggested that some autistic people find it easier to cope when there is an animal around. Not all autistic people love animals though! Our character starts up a conversation with a stranger about their dog.
7. Certain environments reduce stress
This is probably true for most people, but research suggests that autistic people get real sensory, social and emotional benefits from spending time in nature. Our insight group thought this positive environment was a great way to end our animation, looking towards the horizon and a better future.