autismImagine if you found it difficult to recognize your own family. Imagine if your brain magnified every noise, smell and sensation. Imagine it is too painful to look someone in the eye. Imagine that you have no instinctual knowledge of what a smile means, what a tear means, what body language expresses. Imagine analyzing every sentence, every word, consciously, just to understand whether someone is an enemy or a friend. This can be every day life for someone with autism; coping with life is not easy.

Autism is a serious, lifelong and disabling neurological condition. Without the right support, it can have a profound – sometimes devastating – effect on individuals and families. Autism doesn’t just affect children. Children with autism grow up to be adults with autism. People on the autism spectrum have problems in three areas: social interaction, communicating with others, and behavioral challenges. Each person with autism is different. The condition is invisible and some behaviours are often misunderstood or disregarded as weird, rude, uncontrollable or just different. Diagnosis of the condition, which can take a long time, can be the key needed to open the door to specialised support.

Autism is described as a spectrum of disorders from those with profound disabilities and no communication to people with Asperger’s syndrome; those who are often above average intelligence. It is believed that many famous people including Steve Jobs, Einstein, Warhol, Mozart and Darwin would be considered Autistic. Not all great minds think a like, people with autistic minds think differently, some say Asperger’s is vital to human evolution.

With over 1000 people in Jersey estimated to be on the autistic spectrum, and as understanding of the condition increases, it is becoming the most commonly diagnosed developmental disorder. Autism Jersey helps the individual, families, friends, partners, carers, professionals and colleagues to better understand and manage their needs and behaviours. The charity now provides professional training qualifications, a bespoke short break service that meets individual and family needs and life skills training to enable finding work and living independently. There is also an adults social club, a befriending scheme for both people with autism and their siblings as well as a monthly youth club for siblings. It is a holistic approach and the benefit for families in Jersey living with Autism is often essential. Autism Jersey is currently aiming to create a new purpose built Centre for Autism in the Island once the charity can secure funding.

April is Autism awareness month and as part of Autism Jersey’s initiative they will be encouraging Islanders to do something ‘Awesome for Autism.’ Organised activities include Lunch at the Atlantic Hotel, an Auction at their Boutique, abseiling down Gorey Castle and the L’Etacq & Back Walk. You could always choose your own awesome activity to take part in or consider helping as a volunteer by joining the A-team volunteer group.

KEEP UP TO DATE ON ALL THE ACTIVITIES BY VISITING THE AUTISM JERSEY WEBSITE, FACEBOOK PAGE OR CALL 871888