Stranger in a strange land….
It’s a trapped feeling. Even at home. An autistic person finds even the social atmosphere at his/her own home challenging enough due to the poor understanding of the condition by his/her family members. When it applies to general public, things quickly spiral out of control for the worse.
A Recent Survey that Raises Concerns
A survey, conducted by The National Autistic Society, Scotland now claims that as many as 2/3 rds of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder many feel socially isolated. They released it ahead of World Autism Awareness Day and launched a new public Autism Awareness campaign (Too Much Information: Why the public needs to understand autism better) to help increase public knowledge about the condition.
Jenny Paterson, Director of campaign, NAS comments, “As many as Two-thirds of people with Autism would agree that they feel socially isolated, their universe tends to become smaller and smaller as they continue to avoid the staring and tutting. However, a majority of the public doesn’t intend to be unkind.
They just don’t see the underlining characteristics of autism – all they see is a ‘strange’ man pacing back and forth, or a ‘naughty’ girl throwing a tantrum. They don’t spend enough thought on how negative thoughts or judgmental reaction could hurt a person who is already a victim of social isolation.”
Jenny is reluctant to accept a Scotland where autistic people and their families lead a socially reclusive life, and this makes the campaign so much more important.
Premise of the Survey
- The outcome of this report is primarily based on an online survey run by the NAS between May and July last year. It attracted responses from as many as 7,532 people across the United Kingdom, with 673 (or 9%) living in Scotland.
- Autism, being a lifelong developmental disability, affects a person’s perception of the world along with his/her interactions with others. Individuals with Autism often find common social situations difficult, primarily because they need to struggle to find the right stimuli from the vast array of sounds, smells and sights.
- Individuals with Autism experience information differently, which means they feel overwhelmed when out in public. This can often lead to an autistic meltdown (READ: What does Sensory Overload feel like), characterised by a loss of behavioural control. The most common manifestations are kicking, screaming and crying.
- Social isolation is a common experience among the autistic. More than one in 100 people in the world are autistic (1 in 68 in the United States), including an estimated 58,000 people in Scotland, which implies that more than 65% of them suffer from it, according to the report. It also speaks of a poor public empathy and understanding of the condition, which the researchers call out as the real culprit behind the left-out feeling.
The Fine Print
- A total of 90% of the families questioned admitted that they found it strange the way people stare at the behaviour of their autistic children. Almost 3/4th of them admitted experiences where onlookers made disapproving sounds and/or gestures upon encountering such behaviour.
- 85% of the survey population feel that other people often judge them as being strange and 66% of same people say they feel socially isolated, according to the findings.
- The study also shows that over time, these attitudes often become too much to bear, thereby causing families dealing with Autism to retreat from a social life. Almost half of those who were interrogated (44%) claimed so; what primarily worry them are people’s reactions towards their kids. People feel so misunderstood to an extent that they shun themselves away to avoid judgement, stares, or even abuse.
- In Scotland, 66% of those affected with autism and 68% of the parents of autistic individuals feel socially isolated.
- Half of that 66% feel unable to leave the house (most of the times) because they are worried about how others will perceive and respond to their behaviour.
- In large scheme of things, that translates to more than 38,000 autistic people out of the 58,000 autistic people across Scotland feel socially isolated. They avoid gatherings, public spaces and transport; even health services. This impacts the family as a whole.
To conclude, the report also states by increasing public awareness, we can build a kinder, more autism-friendly community and then.