Since its inception in 2008, on the initiative of the United Nations (UN), we have been celebrating World Autism Awareness Day on April 2. The date has come to hold great importance for many people, not least the parents of autistic children, due to the sense of community, awareness, and understanding it inspires. Many people choose to make their support visible by wearing blue on this particular day, but of course, there are many other ways to help: from the work of foundations and support groups, to qualified educators and speech therapists who assist in schools and beyond. This increase in resources is great news, but it is important to recognize that help may still fail to reach those in need – especially those in small or rural communities.
What is autism?
There are many harmful, outdated myths surrounding autism. Rather than the disease some claim it to be, autism is in fact a developmental disorder related to the function of the brain. The condition is said to exist on a spectrum, meaning it manifests in many different ways from person to person. Because of the wide-ranging severity of the condition, this also means that many people fail to receive a diagnosis until well into adulthood.
Autism’s most common symptoms share significant crossover with a number of other disorders (such as ADHD and epilepsy), which can further complicate diagnosis. A lack of development thus far in the network of psychological care in Poland, the high cost involved in necessary private appointments, and the individualistic care needs demanded by the condition can also serve as barriers.
Signs and symptoms of autism
Compiling an exact list of characteristics typical of autism is difficult, given the wide range of ways it can manifest from one person to the next. Generally speaking, however, it has been suggested that the condition most commonly affects human relations, speech, and communication. Repetitive behavior, adherence to rigid routines, and a passionate fixation on specific interests are also commonly observed among those living with autism.
Interestingly, the symptoms of autism are similar in children and adults. At all ages, autistic people often struggle to communicate and to interpret non-verbal messages, such as body language. It is also not unusual for autistic people to feel uncomfortable when trying to maintain eye contact with others, to show little response to their own name, to have difficulty expressing their feelings, and to experience severe delays in their speech development.
Hypersensitivity has also been widely reported among the autistic community, making sensory overload common as a response to certain sounds or sensations.
With all of that said, an autism diagnosis is not something that should be feared. Stigma continues to lessen as awareness grows, while advancements in support have drastically improved quality of life for many autistic people. If you have any concern that you, your child, or someone else in your life may be autistic, you should reach out to a specialist (or speak to your doctor to receive advice/a referral). A formal diagnosis can in fact come as a relief to many autistic people and their loved ones. It provides them with the opportunity to make a targeted, individualistic plan of action, making any necessary adjustments to the likes of education, and allowing for the assignment of specialized support if necessary.
As mentioned above, many people on the autistic spectrum are highly susceptible to sensory overload, triggered by touch and sound. Even the most standard, everyday situations can become distressing. It is all too easy to make quick judgements about those who respond to “normal” situations in a “strange” way, but throwaway remarks and casual laughter can cause real upset, making it even more difficult for autistic people to feel confident venturing out into the community.
With the constant barrage of noise that comes with modern life, it is wise for those at risk of sensory overload to take steps that will help to protect them. This could mean seeking out Sensory Integration therapy, or more simply, purchasing quality headphones/earplugs.
On this front, it is also worth noting that several large supermarkets and retailers now organize so-called “quiet hours”, specifically designed to make the experience of shopping less daunting for those who experience sensory overload. Measures taken typically include: switching off background music, dimming the lights, muting cash registers, and limiting the number of shoppers in store at any one time. These “quiet hours” are open not only to autistic people, but anyone who suffers from misophonia (an intense fear or hatred of loud noises).
With initiatives like this, and the better understanding brought about by Autism Awareness Day, we can hope that anyone living with the condition will feel increasingly valued and included within society.
Earplugs – help for autistic people
Earplugs are a great help for people with autism. Simple and affordable, they offer an instant means of blocking out potentially harmful noise. Suitable for the whole family, they can take the stress out of a whole range of situations – both at home and on the go.
But with so many to choose from, what kind of earplugs would we recommend for people on the autism spectrum? Disposable stoppers are a great choice (available in our MULTI 10 pack, HASPRO TUBE or HASPRO 1P Foam). If you prefer a more long-term product, the reusable HASPRO SLEEP UNIVERSAL plugs would work well. Or, if you want a bespoke fit, consider our specially molded plugs.
It all depends on how you intend to use them, but there really are options to cover a whole host of needs. For example, there are plugs designed for use in the office, waterproof plugs that can protect you in the pool, and travel plugs that will guard against pressure (and the noise of fellow passengers): You really needn’t miss out on life’s many adventures.
With society increasingly aware of the needs of autistic people, and simple tools and initiatives in place to offer them support, there is no reason why those on the spectrum should not expect to be as happy and fulfilled as everyone else.