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Autism Awareness Month

April marks the start of Autism Awareness Month, an international event targeted at raising awareness about ASD, whilst also highlighting and debunking some common myths and misconceptions. Despite significant developments since its inception in the 1970s, Autism Awareness Month remains as relevant today as ever, with just 21.7% of the autistic community employed in the UK.
What Is ASD?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong developmental disability which affects how people interact and communicate with the world around them.

In recent years – as a result of improved awareness – autism diagnosis has become increasingly common, with 1 in 100 people on the autism spectrum. We refer to it as a spectrum because it affects people in a variety of ways, with every autistic person possessing their own unique strengths and weaknesses.

What is the difference between autism and Asperger’s?

Up until 2013, the term “Asperger’s” was also used to diagnose people on the spectrum without a learning disability. However, this is no longer an accepted diagnosis – and is even considered offensive due to its association with controversial figure Hans Asperger.

It is important to note that some autistic people may still choose to identify with the term, but this is overall more representative of the broad spectrum of needs affecting people with ASD differently.

 

Is It Worth Getting an Autism Diagnosis?

Receiving an official autism diagnosis – as a child or an adult – is important to not only offer autistic people peace of mind, but provide them with the support they need to thrive in life.

NHS autism diagnosis

Unfortunately, since the Covid-19 pandemic, the NHS has been under significant pressure and waiting times have increased exponentially. As a result, it can take between 18 months and 2 years to receive a final autism diagnosis. Medical professionals diagnose autism based on difficulties experienced in two main areas – social communication and restricted, repetitive and/or sensory behaviours or interests. 

In order for a child to be diagnosed with autism, they will be expected to explain how they’ve experienced difficulties in both areas, and have presented certain characteristics from their early childhood. You can view a full list of autism symptoms in children here.

Private autism diagnosis

On the other hand, private autism diagnosis, though more expensive, can be achieved significantly faster, with most private healthcare providers promising a full assessment in 6-10 weeks.

What is a child with autism entitled to in the UK?

An autism diagnosis can also provide you with a number of benefits:

  1. Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

    This can be claimed for additional care needs caused by a disability or health condition. It’s a non-diagnosis specific benefit, so having ASD won’t immediately result in an award. It is also non-means tested, and those awarded will be given different rates depending on their own individual circumstances.

  2. Carer’s Allowance

    When awarded DLA for a child, you could also claim Carer’s Allowance if they’ve been given a middle or high rate. However, you must not earn more than £128 per week and should also be caring for the child for a minimum of 35 weekly hours. 

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We believe no child should be left behind.

How to Raise a Happy Autistic Child

For parents seeking support for autistic children, there are many things you can do to improve your child’s quality of life:

  • Be patient
  • Use positive reinforcement
  • Avoid nonverbal communication techniques
  • Take advantage of their special interests to be more engaging
  • Always use their name when speaking to them
  • Be aware of environmental and sensory overload
  • Speak slowly and take pauses between words or sentences
  • Try to avoid open-ended questions
  • Employ visual aid or communication cards
  • Keep behaviour diaries to better manage their stress or anxiety
  • Be clear with language and always direct
  • Allow children to tell you what they need
  • Be affectionate, but mindful of boundaries

Outdoor activities for autistic children

In addition, outdoor learning and skill development has also been proven to help regulate children with autism. Here are some of the best outdoor activities to enrich your autistic child’s life:

  •       Sensory bins
  •       Obstacle courses
  •       Gardening
  •       Hide and seek
  •       Scavenger Hunts
  •       Sidewalk Chalk
  •       Animal sanctuaries
Additional Support for Parents and Caregivers

Lastly, it is essential for parents and caregivers to understand that they’re not alone. Accessing support networks and organisations can provide invaluable resources and assistance.

Thankfully, there are numerous organisations in the UK that provide support to both parents and carers, including the National Autistic Society, which offers various types of support programmes tailored to a variety of different ages and needs. These help caregivers to understand autism, build their confidence and promote mutual support and empathy.

Many fostering agencies like Compass can also offer respite care services, which are designed to provide temporary relief, allowing caregivers to recharge their batteries whilst ensuring the wellbeing of their kids. This is usually done by having the foster children take a short-term stay with another family, within their local network of agency foster carers.

Promoting awareness, support and acceptance for individuals with ASD is paramount. By embracing education and empathy, we can cultivate greater understanding, break down barriers and create a more compassionate society where every person can feel valued and respected. If you are able and willing to foster an autistic child, please get in contact with our team today!

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