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Celebrating Autism Acceptance Week

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, 6 min read

Celebrating Autism Acceptance Week

What is Autism?

Autism, formally known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental condition characterised by challenges in social interaction, communication, and repetitive behaviours. 

Being a spectrum disorder, individuals with autism can experience a wide range of symptoms and severity levels. People with autism may have difficulties in understanding and expressing emotions, forming relationships, and interpreting social cues. Additionally, they may exhibit repetitive behaviours or have specific interests. 

While there is no known single cause of autism, it is believed to result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. With early intervention and support, individuals with autism can lead fulfilling lives and make unique contributions to society.

Recognising Signs of Autism

Early intervention is crucial for individuals with autism to gain support in acknowledging their strengths and helping them to reach their full potential. However, in the United Kingdom alone, over 150,000 people languish on the waiting list for an autism assessment. This backlog not only exacerbates existing challenges but also reflects systemic shortcomings in healthcare infrastructure. 

Timely assessments are pivotal in providing early intervention and support, yet the prolonged waiting periods perpetuate unnecessary hardships for individuals and their families. Early intervention is vital, therefore it is crucial to be aware of the signs which may indicate autistic traits. Signs may vary, however, some common early signs to watch for in children may include:

  • Limited or Absent Eye Contact: children typically begin making eye contact within the first few months of life. Limited or absent eye contact, especially when interacting with caregivers, may be an early indicator of autism.
  • Delayed or Limited Social Interaction: Babies typically start smiling at caregivers and engaging in social interactions early in life. A lack of response to social cues, such as not smiling back or showing interest in faces, may be a sign of autism.
  • Difficulty with Communication: Delayed speech development or lack of language milestones (such as babbling, pointing, or using gestures) by 12 months of age can be an early sign of autism. 
  • Repetitive Behaviours: Engaging in repetitive movements or actions, such as rocking back and forth, hand-flapping, or lining up toys in a specific manner, might indicate autism, especially when these behaviours seem excessive or interfere with daily activities.
  • Sensory Sensitivities: Some children with autism may exhibit heightened sensitivities or aversions to sensory stimuli, such as certain textures, sounds, or lights. They may become distressed or overwhelmed in response to these stimuli.
  • Difficulty with Transitions or Changes: Difficulty adapting to changes in routine or transitioning between activities may be observed in children with autism. They may become upset or resistant when faced with unexpected changes.
  • Limited Play Skills: Children with autism may show a lack of interest in imaginative or pretend play and may prefer solitary activities or repetitive play with objects.

As we learn more about autism, more individuals are getting diagnosed at a later stage, particularly women. Previous research has largely focused on men and boys with autism, so our expectations of autistic traits may not apply to women. It is important to recognise that women have been shown to “mask”, or suppress their autistic traits to fit into our neurotypical society, so may be harder to diagnose. Signs of autism in women and girls may include:

  • Special Interests: Like men with autism, women may have intense, focused interests in specific topics. 
  • Social Relationships: Women with autism may struggle with forming and maintaining social relationships, but their difficulties may manifest differently. They might have a few close friendships but struggle with the nuances of social interactions, such as understanding social cues or maintaining reciprocal conversations.
  • Sensory Sensitivities: Sensory sensitivities are common in individuals with autism, including women. However, women may be more adept at masking their sensory discomfort in social situations, leading to internal stress or anxiety and mental health comorbidities. 
  • Executive Functioning Challenges: Difficulties with executive functioning, such as organisation, planning, and time management, are common in autism and may be more pronounced in women. This can manifest as challenges in completing tasks, managing responsibilities, or coping with change.
  • Camouflaging and Masking: Women with autism often develop coping strategies to mask their autistic traits, such as observing and imitating others' behaviours or rehearsing social interactions. While this can help them navigate social situations, it can also be exhausting and contribute to anxiety or depression.
  • Mental Health Challenges: Women with autism are at higher risk for mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. These conditions may stem from the stress of navigating social expectations and coping with sensory sensitivities and executive functioning challenges.
  • Difficulty Recognizing Emotions: Women with autism may have difficulty recognizing and expressing their own emotions and understanding the emotions of others. They may struggle with interpreting facial expressions, tone of voice, and nonverbal cues.

By understanding the nuanced presentations of individuals with autism, we can provide appropriate support and help people use their uniqueness to their advantage. 

At eMed, our Mental Health Practitioners can provide patients with a space to explore their symptoms. After taking a detailed assessment and history, our clinicians can make expert clinical recommendations, signposting and onward referrals for specific interventions, diagnosis (if needed) and other treatments. Statistics reveal that 70% of autistic individuals experience mental health problems, therefore it is essential to explore how autism is impacting on an individual's life and to provide them with the support to thrive. 

Autism Acceptance Week

Autism Acceptance Week serves as a poignant reminder of the challenges faced by individuals on the autism spectrum. Neurodiversity celebrates the inherent diversity of human brains and minds, including those with autism. 

Autism Acceptance Week has a rich history rooted in advocacy and awareness. Originally established to counteract the stigma surrounding autism, this annual event has evolved into a global movement promoting acceptance, understanding, and inclusion. Over the years, it has gained traction through grassroots efforts, community initiatives, and online campaigns, sparking conversations and driving meaningful change. 

Autism Acceptance Week provides a moment for reflection, education, and most importantly; action. In a world where acceptance and understanding are paramount, it's crucial to delve into the statistics, stories, and solutions surrounding autism. By addressing the statistics, amplifying voices, and taking concrete action, we can pave the way for a brighter future for autistic individuals worldwide.


The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.

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