Holly tells classmates about Autism for World Autism Awareness Week

Holly, 12, is autistic and stars in the National Autistic Society’s powerful new film and campaign about public understanding of autism, which was released ahead of World Autism Awareness Week, this week.

Holly held the first screening of the film at her Year 7 assembly this week, using the platform to talk to her classmates about her autism for the first time. She hopes this will help her classmates understand more about autism, in particular how autistic people sometimes need extra time to process information.

Holly is also encouraging people to get involved in the National Autistic Society’s Too NASMuch Information campaign and to think about the small things they can do to make the world a more autism friendly place – whether in the classroom, at work or at the shops.

The film follows Holly’s character on a single day, showing how overwhelming everyday situations can be when autistic people aren’t given enough time to process information.

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. This can also make it difficult to process information like questions and autistic people can sometimes need more time to reply.

Almost everyone has heard of autism but the National Autistic Society says that a much smaller number of people understand what it actually means to be autistic.

According to a 2017 survey of over 1,400 autistic people and their families in the UK:
● 77% think the public don’t understand their need for more time to process information
● 82% said this makes them feel anxious; 48.5% said it can lead to a meltdown or shutdown
● In the last year, due to worries about not being given enough processing time:
o 68.5% said they’d chosen not to socialise
o 39% said they’d avoided going shopping
o 35% said they’d chosen not to go to a café or restaurant
o 28% said they’d chosen not to visit their GP or apply for a job

Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society, says that the public want to help but often don’t know how, citing a new public poll showing that almost 80% would change their behaviour if they knew autistic people needed extra time to process information.

He said: “We know that people don’t set out to be judgmental towards autistic people. The problem is that they often don’t see the autism, they just see the ‘tantrum’ or the ‘difficult person’ and this is making autistic people feel isolated.

“So this World Autism Awareness Day we’re encouraging the public to think about what they can do to help. It’s often the smallest change that can make the biggest difference, like giving someone extra time to reply to a question, using clear language or providing a quiet space at work or a party. We’ve got lots of ideas on our website www.autism.org.uk about the small things people can do to help and would encourage everyone to take a look.

“We’re deeply grateful to Holly, our talented film star, and her family for helping us to share our message. A basic understanding of autism could transform the lives of autistic people and their families, allowing them to go to shops, the cinema, and work in the way other people take for granted.”

Jo, Holly’s mum, said: “We’re all so proud of Holly. Lots of 12-year-olds would be daunted by acting in a big film like this and speaking in front of her whole year group but Holly’s autism means she doesn’t get embarrassed as easily. And she’s so passionate about acting and raising awareness of autism and loved every minute of filming.

“She’s come such a long way since her diagnosis five years ago. I feel like her autism could have been picked up earlier but, like many girls on the spectrum, she’s really good at masking her difficulties. For instance, copying the behaviour and reactions of children around her.

“Her diagnosis helped us to understand Holly and her needs. We worked closely with the school to put in place lots of really small strategies, like letting her leave lessons 5 minutes early because she gets so overwhelmed by noisy and busy spaces, and it’s made such a difference.

“I hope her film helps other people to understand more about autism and how they can help make life a little easier for people like Holly.”

Holly said: “I love acting and want to be involved in musical theatre when I grow up. So it means a lot to be involved in the National Autistic Society’s film.

“Sometimes I get really upset that people do not understand autism. But I hope this campaign will help improve understanding and make other people who are autistic feel more accepted.

“If just one person sees the film and is more understanding to autistic people, I’ll be happy.”

What is autism?
● Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others.
● More than 1 in 100 people are on the autism spectrum, including an estimated 700,000 people in the UK.
● Every person on the autism spectrum is different. It can present some serious challenges – but, with the right support and understanding, autistic people and their families can live full lives.
● Although everyone is different, people on the autism spectrum may:
● Be under or oversensitive to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours, which can make everyday life extremely difficult
● Find social situations and change a challenge, sometimes leading to extreme levels of anxiety
● Experience a ‘meltdown’ if overwhelmed by anxiety or sensory overload
● Benefit from extra time to process and respond to communication.
● Asperger syndrome is a form of autism. People with Asperger syndrome are often of average or above average intelligence. They have fewer problems with speech but may still have difficulties with understanding and processing language.

 

The National Autistic Society
● The National Autistic Society is the UK’s leading charity for people on the autism spectrum and their families. Founded in 1962, it provides information, support and pioneering services, and campaigns for a better world for people on the autism spectrum.
● To find out more about autism or the NAS, visit www.autism.org.uk.
● Follow the NAS on Twitter (@Autism) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/NationalAutisticSociety).

About the Too Much Information campaign
● The second phase of the National Autistic Society’s 3-year campaign ‘Too Much Information’, launches on 31 March, two days before World Autism Awareness Day (2 April).
● Too Much Information is the UK’s biggest ever autism awareness campaign. Its aim is to increase public understanding of autism, so people can recognise autistic behaviour and respond with empathy.
● The campaign includes:
o a film starring Holly, an autistic actress, showing how overwhelming everyday situations can be when autistic people aren’t given enough time to process information. The film was made by award-winning creative agency, Don’t Panic, and production company, Knucklehead. It was directed by Tomas Mankovsky
o A survey of over 1,400 autistic people and their families
o A public poll about attitudes towards autism
o Pledges – we’re encouraging people think about how they can help reduce the overload by making small changes at work, in this shops or on public transport. We’ll be encouraging people to pledge to do simple things like sending round agendas before meetings, providing quiet spaces at parties and speaking clearly.
● To find out more about the Too Much Information campaign, watch the film and learn more about the pledges, visit: www.autism.org.uk/TMI

Statistics
According to a 2017 survey of over 1,400 autistic people and their families in the UK:
● 77% think the public don’t understand their need for more time to process information.
● 82% said this makes them feel anxious; 48.5% said it can lead to a meltdown or shutdown.
● In the last year, due to worries about not being given enough processing time:
o 68.5% said they’d chosen not to socialise
o 39% said they’d avoided going shopping
o 35% said they’d chosen not to go to a café or restaurant
o 28% said they’d chosen not to visit their GP or apply for a job.
● The top three things that could help when someone needs extra processing time are:
o more time to respond (79%)
o a quiet, calm setting (74%)
o information in advance (71%).
Public poll
Stats based on a 2017 Censuswide online poll of 2,321 adults:
● 56% of respondents think someone who doesn’t reply immediately to a question in person isn’t paying attention, and 24% think they’re rude
● Almost 80% (78%) say they would change their behaviour if they knew autistic people needed extra time to process information
● 48% say they’d wait for someone to answer and 42% said they’d repeat the question, if someone didn’t reply immediately to them.