Introduction to the Issues Facing Autistic People

Man crossing traffic lights Autistic people and their relatives and carers face many issues, and some problems, on a day to day basis.

This section identifies some of the most common issues and problems. However it is important to remember that each autistic person is a unique individual, with unique needs and abilities. Because of this, he or she will experience those issues in a unique way or may not experience them at all.

It is just as important to remember that some autistic individuals don't think of autism as an issue at all, it's just the way they are.

Autism is not a problem

Some autistic do not think autism is a problem.

"People need to get over the idea that the neuro-typical way is 'right' and any other way is 'wrong'. The AS way is just as valid - in fact better in some respect. We should be accepted in our own right and the emphasis should be on educating NTs not to be so discriminatory and to get over the absurd and offensive idea that they are better then anyone else. People with AS don't need to be 'cured' or trained as to how to 'pretend' to be normal - it is the 'normal' people who need to learn that, contrary to what they think, they are not the pinnacle of God's creation and that there is in fact a lot they could learn from Aspies. They need to be taught not to be prejudiced and discriminatory and to accept and accommodate us for who we are."

(Quoted in Beardon, L and Edmonds, G. (2007). ASPECT Consultancy Report. A national report on the needs of adults with Asperger syndrome. Sheffield: Sheffield Hallam University.)

Core Symptoms

Autism is a condition that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them.

Autistic people vary enormously from each other but they all share the two "core" features of autism:

- persistent difficulties with social communication and social interaction. For example, they may find it hard to begin or carry on a conversation, they may not understand social rules such as how far to stand from somebody else, or they may find it difficult to make friends.

- Restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, or activities. For example, they may develop an overwhelming interest in something, they may follow inflexible routines or rituals, they may make repetitive body movements, or they may be hypersensitive to certain sounds.

Secondary issues

Many autistic people  are reported to have secondary difficulties, that is, issues not symptomatic of autism but very common in people on the autism spectrum. For example, many autistic people appear to have

  • challenging behavioural problems, such as aggression and self-injury
  • mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression
  • sleep disorders, such as insomnia
  • sensory issues, such as hyper or hypo sensitivity
  • gastro-intestinal problems, such as diarrhoea

Other conditions and syndromes

Most autistic people are reported to have additional conditions and syndromes which bring their own problems and which complicate the issues caused by autism. For example

  • A significant minority of autitic people also develop epilepsy
  • About a third of autistic individuals have some other learning disability
  • A significant minority of autistic people have some form of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

For more information please see Conditions and syndromes related to or commonly occurring alongside autism

Integrating into society

Most autistic people find it hard to integrate into society. For example, they may struggle to

  • find or keep a job
  • run a home by themselves
  • begin or maintain a relationship

Relatives and carers

Relatives and carers of autistic people also face issues and problems. For example they may

  • carry the the worry and exhaustion of looking after someone who is autistic
  • face the frustration of trying to cope with other people's ignorance and prejudice - a problem also faced by autistic people themselves
  • become frustrated by the lack of high quality information about interventions that can help
  • become frustrated by the poor quality of the services designed to help them

Practical solutions to the issues and problems

As Temple Grandin, an autistic woman says, there is no 'one-size fits all' solution to the issues faced by autistic people. What works for one person may not work for another.

'People are always looking for the single magic bullet that will totally change everything. There is no single magic bullet.' (Temple Grandin)

This website aims to provide information about some of the interventions used to help overcome some of these issues.

You may also find it useful to look at the Resources on Autism section of this website. Here you will find organisations and other resources that may help you tackle some of the issues.

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16 Jun 2022