Autism in 2017: challenges and opportunities
Meet alumnus of the College, Jon Spiers, CEO of the UK’s leading autism research charity, Autistica. In the latest issue of Johnian News Jon has shared his take on the challenges facing people with the disability in 2017, revealing how research is offering new hope to those affected. Here's an extract;
'Autism is capturing the public’s interest and imagination today like never before. Television programmes such as The A Word (BBC One, 2016) and Employable Me(BBC Two, 2016), and publications including Neurotribes (Steve Silberman, 2015) have put nuanced, honest portrayals of autism at the top of the bestseller charts and on primetime TV – but for many autistic children and adults, this greater awareness isn’t yet translating into healthier, happier and more fulfilling lives.
One in a hundred people in the UK has autism. It is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how you communicate with and relate to other people, and how you make sense of the world around you. Autism is a highly diverse "spectrum condition", which means that although all autistic people will have difficulties with their social and communication skills, some will be perfectly able to live successful, independent lives, while others – particularly those with severe learning disabilities, complex neurological issues or mental health problems – may need a lifetime of support.
Autism’s place in the world has turned a corner. In recent years, growing numbers of autistic individuals, families and professionals have got behind the concept of neurodiversity – embracing different ways of thinking and seeing the world – but there is still a long way for wider society to go. It will take collaboration between science, healthcare, government and society before real changes are seen in the lives of autistic people. For research, this is a golden age of opportunity and we’re hopeful that we can make major steps towards giving autistic people the long, healthy, happy lives they deserve.'