Only this week a young woman was thrown out of a cinema.
Why? Because she was autistic.
Tamsin Parker (25) was thrown out of a cinema in London on her birthday for ‘laughing too loud’ at the film ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’, receiving verbally abusive comments from several audience members.
But why is autism so misunderstood amongst society? And what is it like living with autism?
Shona Davison (40) from Sheffield, was diagnosed with autism when she was 37-years-old.
She said: “Human beings are neuro-diverse – by this I mean there is a lot of variation among our brains. Autism is just one type of neurological difference. It affects the way I experience the world.
“Being a part of a neurological minority is difficult. Fluorescent lighting makes me stressed as do noisy environments, particularly when there are multiple sources of background noise, such as a busy shopping centre.”
Autism is a developmental spectrum condition that affects how a person perceives the world around them, and their ability to communicate with others.
© Tammie Beech
Phil Cooney, the chairman of the charity Sheffield Autistic Society believes that ‘Autism Awareness Week’ should be changed to ‘Autism Acceptance Week’ to reflect the need for society to be more aware on the condition.
Shona added: “Most people are already aware of autism. What we really need is autism understanding and acceptance by listening to autistic people”.
According to the National Autistic Society, around 700,000 people have autism in the UK, but this is likely to be an underestimation as many autistic people are unidentified.
Shona said: “The vast majority of my problems would disappear if the rest of the world understood me better with patience and flexibility.”
Autistic people sometimes take longer to process information, meaning that people with a lack of knowledge about the condition think that ‘you are not listening properly’ or that ‘you don’t know the answer to a question’.
Group conversations are also difficult for Shona, tending to forget what she was going to say when there is a gap for her to speak.
Despite the difficulties that the condition has on Shona, it also has positive aspects.
Being a mother of two autistic children, she believes she is a much better parent as she can empathise with them more easily and can understand when they have sensory overload, for example.
Shona added: “When I worked in banking, being autistic contributed to me being a good credit risk analyst as I loved going through the details of code and finding errors.”
One misconception about autism is that those who are diagnosed all have some amazing talent like card counting, but actually autistic people just ordinary people getting on with life the best they can.
One of the ways Shona recommends to help autistic people is to ‘allow them to be themselves’ and to ‘understand that there is always a reason for their behaviour’.
Shona explained: “Forcing your advice on an autistic person isn’t helpful – nor assuming that they will benefit from or enjoy the things that you enjoy.”
Social media can also be extremely helpful to those diagnosed with autism, allowing them to find a community of autistic people and get advice from others who understand.
Shona added: “Autism is a part of my identity. I like myself the way I am.
“The world would be a much worse place with no autistic people in it; diversity is a good thing.”