Autism is a range of life-long complex brain development disorders which affect how people behave, communicate, and interact with other people. People with autism do not perceive the world in the same way as others. Autism is not an illness; it is a disorder that has no clear causes, and cannot be cured.
Did You Know?
- One in 160 children has an autism spectrum disorder1
- Some people with autism can live independently, while others need life-long care and support due to disability1
- There is still stigma surrounding autism, leading to discrimination and human rights violations1
This year, the objective of Autism Awareness Day is to increase awareness to help people with autism and their families. Receiving an autism diagnosis can affect a family in many ways. It can increase parenting stress, be financially demanding, and put pressure on the parents’ relationship and other personal relationships.
Some issues people with autism and their families face include:
- Some health professionals, specifically general practitioners, may not fully understand autism or be aware of the range of the spectrum, which can make it difficult to receive referrals to appropriate care and services.
- Health care systems are not always able to adapt to the needs of people with autism. Noisy and crowded waiting areas or seeing and speaking to strangers can make an already stressful experience even more difficult for people who have communication difficulties.
- Many people with autism do not receive the support they need. This is either because they do not get their diagnosis early enough, receive the wrong diagnosis, or do not have access to the necessary education, independent living support, or employment support.
The health care system of each country needs to adequately provide accessible support for the complex needs of people with autism. Interventions for people with developmental conditions do not only need to include care for their physical needs, but also for their mental health care, and inclusive education.1
 Autism spectrum disorders – Key facts. WHO. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/autism-spectrum-disorders. Updated November 7, 2019. Accessed March 7, 2019.
 What is autism? National Autistic Society. https://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is/asd.aspx. Reviewed June 8, 2016. Accessed March 7, 2019.
 Karst JS, Van Hecke AV. Parent and family impact of autism spectrum disorders: A review and proposed model for intervention evaluation. Clinical child and family psychology review. 2012 Sep 1;15(3):247-77. DOI: 10.1007/s10567-012-0119-6.
 Six ways we can improve services for people with autism. Healthwatch. https://www.healthwatch.co.uk/news/2018-03-26/six-ways-we-can-improve-services-people-autism. Published March 26, 2018. Accessed March 11, 2020.