Around 80,000 New Zealanders have autism (source: Autism NZ). It’s a developmental disability that can affect people in different ways.
But — if given the opportunity — everyone with autism is capable of leading a happy, fulfilling life.
What is autism?
Autism affects how people communicate with others and interact with the world.
People on the autism spectrum may have difficulty speaking or not speak at all, they can take longer to process information, or may not understanding others’ facial expressions.
People with autism also engage in repetitive behaviours. These can include repetitive thoughts or actions. People might have an especially strong interest in a hobby. Or they may use repetition as a way to deal with anxiety.
Unexpected changes and sensory overload can be really difficult for people with autism to cope with.
But, if we take the time to understand how people with autism view the world, we can do a better job of making sure we adapt our environment to meet their needs.
Check out this great video explainer of what autism is:
People with autism can become overwhelmed by noise, smells, lights and touch. The video below is of a work meeting and is taken from the perspective of someone with autism.
It gives you a glimpse into what it can be like when we don’t take into consideration the needs of people with autism:
WARNING: video contains flashing lights and strobe effects.
Sensory overload is painful and frightening. It makes it impossible to concentrate and can cause people to shut down or go into a physical and emotional meltdown.
We’re all different and that’s OK!
In the end, we’re all different from each other and that’s awesome! The world would be pretty boring if we were all the same
Special Olympics New Zealand welcomes everyone with an intellectual disability, including autism. We have clubs all over the country, so wherever you live, you can get involved.
We provide support and guidance to help people of all ages build independence, confidence and (of course!) a lifelong love of sport.
Get in touch with your local club to find out more