UK elections are looming and all around the country, various political party candidates are going round shaking hands, kissing babies and trying to influence people’s votes.

Polly Tommey knows  a short cut…

…Autism has 6 million votes!

Polly, the beautiful, inspirational, editor-in-chief of The Autism File  has a son with autism. just like me.

My son Jodi is twenty-one today.  Polly’s son Billy will be fourteen later this month and both are faced with the various serious problem of what will happen to them in the future.

Currently, my son goes to a wonderful college where there are a variety of young students with disabilities ranging from physical problems, behavioural problems, visual and hearing, Down’s Syndrome, Asperger’s, Autism and probably a whole lot more.

Each one is treated with respect and their achievements recognised.

They’re lucky – VERY LUCKY!

However, like all good things, it has to come to an end and for my son that will  be in July 2011.

What then?

That’s the burning question parents  and carers of autistic children all over the world think about all the time, but are afraid to ask.

What happens when they become adults?

With so much ignorance of the condition, we continually hear of bullying and discrimination.

Lately there have been several cases of suicide, where the parent (usually the mother) has killed herself and her child because life was unbearable and the future too bleak to contemplate.

It’s tragic, but few people realise the strain an autistic child puts on families.  Statistically, only one in five marriages survive the stress of a mentally handicapped child.

Some people assume all people with autistic spectrum disorders are the same. 

That is so untrue.

They are all VERY DIFFERENT, and the big problem now we have the Autistic Umbrella or Spectrum as it’s called, is every one is clumped  together.

Depending on which end of the spectrum you belong, your needs will be different.

Asperger’s Syndrome individuals are often referred to as having higher functioning autism, but the reality is, they have Asperger’s Syndrome.

There’s  a big difference, and many years ago it was explained to me like this:-

Imagine  taking an Asperger’s and an Autistic child to the same zoo, on the same day, at the same time,  in the same transport, and then asking them to draw a picture of their experience.

The Asperger child’s image would contain animals and people with lots of activity, but the child with autism would draw cages, and paths.

A person with Asperger’s Syndrome will usually be very intelligent, and have a good vocabulary.  They desperately want to fit in, but lack the social skills, which makes acceptability easy.

Often bullied and tormented, life for someone with Asperger’s Syndrome can be very difficult.

The autistic child however, has no real interest in fitting in, so their total lack of empathy is often mistaken for coldness. 

Generally, the autistic individual either doesn’t speak at all, or has a very limited vocabulary.  They like their own space and just want order and predictability in their lives.

You can see the huge difference, and yet, for the moment at least, the Asperger element of the autistic umbrella are seen as the “voice” of Autism.

They’re NOT. 

They are the voice of Asperger’s  whose needs are very real but very different.

Today, is National  Autism Awareness Day and if you want to learn more about this increasingly common disability, which is also affecting mothers, fathers, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc., etc., you can visit my site

I really highly recommend you check out The Autism File too.

With cases of autism continuing to rise, there will be an enormous amount of autistic individuals in the community in the future.  Unless there is more understanding of the condition this will cause HUGE problems.

Ignorance makes people fearful as this true story shows.

A young lad with autism, fifteen years old, had an obsession with Argos catalogues.  One day, he saw two young girls outside of his house holding a brand new one.  He quickly grabbed his old catalogue, rushed out into the street, and being virtually non-verbal, tried to communicate in any way he could that he wanted to swap his old catalogue for their new one.

The girls, both fourteen years old, were understandably confused and frightened.  They rushed home and told their parents about the strange man who’d approached them.

Now, you would think, once the facts of the case emerged, common sense would prevail.  Everyone would be a bit wiser and that would be the end of it, but NO.

Instead, the boy was locked up in a secure hospital with little chance of being released because he is considered a “danger to society”!

How can that be?

His only crime is he loves Argos catalogues and can’t talk.

People with autism are NOT a danger to society.  They are not deliberately cruel, never lie, cheat or intentionally steal, don’t rape or mug people, and with the right supervision can offer a lot.

All they request is acceptance, understanding and a safe haven.

UK politicians take note.

Today, 2nd April is Autism Awareness Day.  IF you want your party to win the next election, build adult residential accommodation for people with Asperger’s and Autism.

Whilst, you may not like the odds – the hugely increasing number of children with the lifelong disability are the voters of the future, and their parents and carers are your voters NOW.

That’s something to think about when you’re shaking hands and kissing babies!

Jean Shaw

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