The co-founder and CEO of Newlife, the charity for disabled children, busts five myths about children with autism.
Autism is a lifelong, developmental disability – and characteristics can vary from one child to another – but common traits include difficulties with social interaction and communication, sensory sensitivity, highly-focused interests and repetitive behaviours or routines.
In the UK, there are around 700,000 people living with autism, which is more than one in 100. Here, Sheila Brown OBE, co-founder and CEO at Newlife busts five myths about children with autism.
They don’t need equipment to help them
Almost all children with autism will benefit from the use of supportive equipment to make them feel safe and help them communicate. In addition, equipment can be vital in helping them and the family access the community which is vital for social development. It can also support safe sleeping for children with autism, helping them to sleep comfortably and securely. Newlife provides such equipment on loan and as non-means tested grants.
They won’t benefit from play like other children
Every child needs different types of toys and sensory stimulation to help them have fun, develop their skills and imagination – and this is no different for children with autism. Finding special items best-suited to those children can be costly and time-consuming for families, as that child will need to be able to first experience a wide variety to find the ones that best meet their needs. Newlife can loan families a free crate of specialist toys packed to meet specific needs; so, children and families can try before they buy, and they can understand which items best engage with their child. We don’t worry if a few get broken thorough usage, so families can relax.
They have to go to a special school
It is not always the case that a child with autism will need to enrol into a special school. Integration of pupils into mainstream schools is, and should be, the aim wherever possible. Every child has the right to assess their schooling needs and an EHCP plan (Education, Health and Care Plan) will provide an evaluation of their needs, and in turn ensure that support can be delivered in an appropriate school, nursery or college.
They won’t be able to form relationships/fall in love
It may be tricky for some, and come later in life, many adults with autism fall in love, are married and have their own family. It may be hard to appreciate that’s this could be the case when they are young – especially if they tend to struggle with relationships (of all kinds) or prefer to be by themselves, which some do. However, if they have the support early on and an ongoing commitment to building relationships, if an adult with autism wishes to have someone special in their life, it is possible.
They won’t have independence as an adult
Whilst it does depend on the specific needs of the child, many adults go on to get stable jobs and live independently in the community. Employers who are part of the Governments ‘Disability Positive’ initiative welcome employees who face a wide range of challenges including autism. A list of these employers can be found on the GOV UK website. Also, many charities welcome volunteers with challenges which can help them develop skills.
As for independent living, whilst this can be difficult envisaging for your child when they grow up, many become incredibly resourceful and benefit from clear routines. If they need help, various community support schemes exist as a part of residential settings where help is available when needed.
Newlife is committed to helping children across the UK who have a disability, achieve their potential, while supporting families and campaigning for positive change.
For more information about the ways Newlife can help, visit newlifecharity.co.uk where you can also download free resources. Alternatively call Newlife’s Child and Family Support team on 0800 902 0095, where one of their experienced nurses may be able to offer information and support. All Newlife services are free.