In support of World Autism Awareness Week (2nd to 8th April), a member of Bath & North East Somerset Council’s staff has written an open letter to celebrate the week and explain what his autism means to him.
Ralph Hemus, who works as a Postroom Assistant in the Council and is also a Young Ambassador for the National Autistic Society, composed a sincere insight which he asked the Council to share in order to increase people’s understanding and appreciation of autism.
In his open letter, Ralph says: “I was diagnosed at the age of 4 and have grown up to become a responsible, delightful adult..…and meddler sometimes!
“I have had some tough times over the years with bullying at school and being unable to understand new surroundings and understanding social interactions.
“Autism is a condition which has not been very well known until today and it affects 1 in 100 people in the UK alone.
“Autism can affect the way we speak, socialise and understand the way of life and its purpose. But there are some good things about autism; we are bright and cheerful.
“Every person with autism is different and adults and children can develop different qualities at any time. Autism can be diagnosed at an early stage of childhood or sometimes cannot be diagnosed until adulthood, which is very sad as if found early individuals can be helped to grow up in an understanding world.”
As part of his role as a Young Ambassador for the National Autistic Society, Ralph helps to raise awareness of autism and is supporting the charity’s new campaign ‘Too Much Information’.
You can read Ralph’s open letter in full at www.bathnes.gov.uk/CelebrateWithRalph, and watch a powerful video that the National Autistic Society has made to launch the campaign at: www.autism.org.uk/TMI.
More than 1 in 100 people are on the autism spectrum. This means that someone sees, hears and feels the world in a different, often more intense, way to other people.
Autistic people often find social situations difficult and struggle to filter out the sounds, smells, sights and information they experience, which means they feel overwhelmed by ‘too much information’ when out in public.
Awareness of autism is at an all-time high, with over 99% of the public saying they’ve heard of autism. But only 16% of parents and carers of autistic people told the National Autistic Society that the public understand how autism affects the way they may behave in public.
The charity’s research showed that this lack of understanding means autistic people and families often face ‘tuts’, judgemental stares and disapproving noises when they’re out in public.
This means that, over time, they avoid going to places they might feel overwhelmed or judged, and become more and more isolated. By the time autistic people reach adulthood their world can look very small, with over 70% of autistic people and their families saying they feel socially isolated.
Mark Lever, Chief Executive of The National Autistic Society, said: “It’s wonderful that Ralph and Bath & North East Somerset Council, are getting involved with World Autism Awareness Week. Through their efforts, they are helping to increase understanding about autism.
“We know that the public wants to be understanding but they often just don’t see the autism, they just see the “tantrum” or the “difficult person”.
“That’s why, during World Autism Awareness Week, we’re launching a major new campaign, Too Much Information to help people recognise behaviour associated with autism so they can respond with empathy and understanding.
“We’re grateful to Ralph and the Council and everyone else who’s getting involved. A basic understanding of autism could transform the lives of the more than 1 in 100 autistic people in the UK, and their families, allowing them to go to shops, the cinema, and work in the way other people take for granted.”
To find out more about autism or the National Autistic Society, visit www.autism.org.uk.