This page is designed to answer the following questions:
- 6.1. Describe how attitudes and lack of understanding can compound the difficulties of individuals with autism. (Level 2 Certificate in Understanding Autism, Introduction to Autism)
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People with autism often face societal attitudes and a lack of understanding that can compound their difficulties. This can stem from misconceptions, stereotypes, and stigma related to autism, and can manifest in various ways.
People may avoid individuals with autism because they do not understand their behaviors or know how to interact with them. For example, a child with autism might be excluded from social activities because peers (and sometimes adults) do not understand their social communication difficulties or unique behaviors.
Misunderstandings about autism can lead to victimization. A person with autism might be teased or bullied because of their repetitive behaviors, difficulty with social cues, or unique interests. For instance, a teenager with autism may be the subject of ridicule because they do not understand social sarcasm or because they talk extensively about a single topic.
A lack of understanding can lead to unfair treatment in various contexts, such as education or employment. For example, an employer may overlook a job applicant with autism, incorrectly assuming that they wouldn’t be able to perform the job duties because of their condition.
Without a proper understanding of autism, teachers, employers, and even family members may fail to provide the necessary accommodations or support. For instance, a teacher might perceive a student with autism as being disruptive or uncooperative, when the student is actually overwhelmed by sensory stimuli in the classroom.
The cumulative effect of exclusion, bullying, discrimination, and lack of support can lead to significant mental health challenges for individuals with autism, including increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. For example, a young adult with autism might develop depression due to the constant feeling of being misunderstood and isolated.
Many people with autism have unique skills and perspectives, but lack of understanding can limit opportunities to utilize their potential. A student with autism who has a deep interest and knowledge in a specific area, for instance, might be dismissed as obsessive, rather than being recognized and encouraged for their potential expertise in that area.
In addition, individuals with autism may lose independence or have exposure to normal life experiences because those around them (even family members) are overprotective.
Improving societal understanding and acceptance of autism, and increasing support for people with autism, is crucial to addressing these challenges. Education about autism can help reduce stigma, promote inclusivity, and ensure that people with autism are provided with the opportunities and support they need to thrive.