As disability and inclusivity awareness becomes more widespread, more and more people are starting to understand autism and the ways people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may behave differently from neurotypical individuals. However, there are still many misconceptions associated with the disorder.
The National Autistic Society estimates that there are around 700,000 people in the UK who are on the autism spectrum. Like any other group, people with ASD are not a monolith, so understanding autism comes with understanding that everyone is unique.
As a provider of accessible holidays in Devon, we’ve welcomed many guests with autism – we know how important it is that we all do our best to be understanding of others and support people that society has historically neglected.
What is Autism?
Autism, or ASD, refers to a range of conditions that affect people differently. Autistic individuals may interpret the world differently than a neurotypical person, resulting in them finding it difficult to communicate, experiencing sensory overload or exhibiting restrictive behaviours, among other characteristics.
How these behaviours impact a person’s daily life will depend on the individual. There is no one way to be autistic.
Some people may have other conditions as well as ASD, including anxiety, depression and ADHD.
What are the Signs of Autism?
Autism is considered an invisible disability – you cannot tell by looking at someone if they are autistic or not. Because autism is a spectrum, diagnosis can also be challenging sometimes, with some people going through life without ever receiving a formal diagnosis.
Some people may exhibit all the typical symptoms of autism, while others may experience one or two.
Communication & Social Interaction
Some people with autism can find it difficult to understand others’ verbal communication and non-verbal gestures. They may struggle to interpret sarcasm or figures of speech and have limited or no speech themselves. Children with autism especially may repeat what others have said to them again and again – this is known as echolalia.
Some can also find it difficult to understand how people are feeling, making it harder to form connections. Because they do not always understand unwritten social rules neotropical people have more easily learnt, people with autism can sometimes be perceived as rude or ‘strange’.
Another common characteristic various autistic people may share is over or under-sensitivity to different stimuli. Certain sounds, smells, tastes, tactile experiences and light can be uncomfortable, causing stress, anxiety or even physical pain.
Stimuli that are too intense may cause some people to avoid everyday situations like shopping in a busy supermarket or travelling on the bus. Being exposed to too many stimuli may cause sensory overload or a meltdown.
Dedicated spaces like sensory rooms are designed to help soothe anxiety prompted by sensory overload and encourage more controlled sensory experiences.
Many people on the autism spectrum show special interest in a particular topic or hobby, becoming experts in their interest and putting a lot of time and focus into it. Special interests can change throughout a person’s life, while others may pursue theirs as part of their career.
For some people, special interests can stray into becoming obsessions, causing them to neglect other parts of their lives to remain highly focused on their interests.
Routines and repetitive behaviours can help provide some structure and predictability to help navigate what can often be a confusing world. Some people may exhibit repetitive movements like rocking or hand flapping to help calm down when anxious or simply because they find the repetitive sensation enjoyable.
When an autistic person becomes too overwhelmed, they may experience a meltdown or shutdown. The former often presents as a loss of control, with some lashing out or shouting. A shutdown can also stem from feelings of being overwhelmed but may seem more passive from the outside, with the person becoming closed off.
Both can be frustrating and exhausting for the person experiencing them.
Wrongful Assumptions About Autism
Like other conditions that lie outside of the ‘norm’, autism has been subject to a number of falsehoods and untrue perceptions over the years. It is important that we continue to break down the stigma surrounding ASD and the associated behaviours to make wider society more inclusive for everyone.
Autism is not an illness, and there is no ‘cure’ – people born with autism are autistic for life. Just because someone is autistic, it does not mean they cannot do certain things. While some may need various kinds of support at times, being autistic does not stop you from leading a well-rounded life.
It is not known what causes autism or even if there is a ‘cause’. Autism is not caused by vaccines.
How to Support People With Autism
Support can come in many forms, whether you further educate yourself to better understand the people with ASD in your life or champion autistic voices. If you’re not sure whether your help is needed or wanted, simply ask the people it concerns.
Activities to Support People with Autism
Receptive toys and sensory activities can be valuable for both children and adults with autism. This might include smaller-scale activities like painting or cooking or involve more energetic things like accessible outdoor adventure activities.
At Calvert Exmoor, we’ve seen firsthand how spending time outdoors can benefit people with autism, especially when combined with a range of activities that are designed to intrigue the senses. Things like archery, bushcraft, climbing and zip lining are all wonderfully tactile, sensory experiences.
Everyone deserves the chance to take a break and enjoy new experiences. However, going on holiday and changing the routine can be difficult for some people. Dedicated autism-friendly holidays are designed to support people with autism and meet their needs, ensuring they can have a relaxing and enjoyable time away.
Our autism-friendly holidays in Devon revolve around a host of adventure activities based at our autism-friendly site and accessible facilities. We always keep inclusivity and accessibility in mind to ensure that everyone can enjoy the thrills of an activity break.
To find out more about how we make our holidays accessible to all or to organise a trip, please get in touch.