As Autism Awareness Month comes to a close at the end of April, Autism Rocks has reached out to Members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism to hear their views on what autism means to them and what needs to be done to improve public awareness.
Jonathan Reynolds, MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, who has a son on the autistic spectrum, said that although attitudes to autism are changing “slowly”, the public perception is still largely “something akin to ‘Rain Main’ where everyone with autism has a secret genius ability”.
He added that to better support people with autism we need to “understand autism, spread awareness, change our own perceptions and crucially get more people with autism into work.
“However, we also need to understand this won’t be possible for everyone, and for those people we should ensure there is a system of support to meet their needs and keep them safe and healthy. If anything, this is getting worse not better.”
He added that the word ‘autism’ is “complex”, and that “every person on the spectrum is different, like any parent I love my son for who he is. But I cannot deny it is also a source of considerable sadness and anxiety; that his ability to communicate with me has been so severely limited, and knowing how difficult a place the world is to him.
Charlotte Leslie, MP for Bristol North West spent a year working for the National Autistic Society. She says that the word ‘autism’ means “a way of seeing and experiencing the world that is very different from norms expected and often imposed by society.”
She said that to support people with autism we need to “seek to appreciate and understand the world that faces people with autism, and perpetually seek to accommodate people with autism as much as we possibly can.”
She adds “I think awareness of autism and the autistic spectrum is growing, but there’s still much to be done to end prejudices and misunderstandings.”
Steve Brine, MP for Winchester commented that “awareness around autism has been growing in recent years, but there is much more to do.”
Sanjay Shah, founder of Autism Rocks, the UK based charity that hosts music concerts to raise funds for the Autism Research Trust, said:
“We are very grateful to hear the MPs valuable opinions and that they agree that there is still much to be done to spread awareness and change attitudes towards autism, we hope they will champion these views in Parliament.
“Although Autism Awareness month is almost over, the battle to change public perceptions of people on the autism spectrum is ongoing, we appreciate the MPs and the public’s support.”