Thursday, May 19, 2022

The Top 5 Autism News Pieces for Spring 2021

Spring has been a Mr Boombastic season of seasons for the autism community – so much so that it took me a whole extra week to summarise my thoughts..


Spring has been a Mr Boombastic season of seasons for the autism community – so much so that it took me a whole extra week to summarise my thoughts on it (yes, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it). However, as with any proclamation which can summon the lyrical prowess of Mr Lover-Lover: Shaggy himself, the proof does remain in the pudding. So, let’s cut this verbal waffle short and find out exactly what I’m talking about.

What follows are the five most juicy tidbits from in and around the autism community from Spring 2021; featuring all the announcements, all the achievements and all the anecdotes that got our tongues wagging over the last three months.

[As always, links to the full stories can be accessed by clicking on the red titles and the bold headings]

Honourable Mentions:

Promo for Make Up TV Show Glow Up

Okay, okay, I promise we will be getting into the juicy bits shortly. However, before we do taste the meaty main course, here is a quick appetiser of honourable mentions

  • Autistic actor: Sir Anthony Hopkins, wins an Oscar
  • Author Holly Smale is diagnosed with autism at 39
  • Some Covid vaccine centres are now creating sensory-friendly environments for Autistic patients
  • A new study claims autism traits become more concrete at age 6 (although my entire teen life is evidence to the contrary)
  • MP and Avid autism campaigner Dame Cheryl Gillan passes away
  • Qanon Shamon blames his autism for leading him to participate in the Capitol riots (when really it was his faith in an orange-faced moron)
  • Massive U.K. study finds racial and ethnic disparities in autism diagnoses
  • Questions arise around whether taking paracetamol during pregnancy can increase the chance of having an autistic child (spoilers: it doesn’t, but my God if some journalist didn’t break their backs trying to make this angle work)
  • TV Show Glow Up features autistic contestants

5. Autism Awareness Month Is No More

Autism Awareness Month Logo Crossed Out

When I look at the calendar and see that Spring is stepping in, I immediately get a huge release of endorphins, as I eagerly anticipate the coming of April’s Autism Awareness Month (I mean, after the initial dread of contemplating how much extra work that will mean for me). However, this year, things were a little different as, in 2021, we waved goodbye to Autism Awareness Month and said “hello” to Autism Acceptance Month.

Yes, this is the news that, after 49 years of awareness, the autism community has renamed, rebranded and refocused our favourite 30-day campaign; repositioning the month of April as one that acknowledges that your average Joe is now acutely aware of the autistic spectrum, but, also recognises that more needs to be done to support the people on it.

Now, personally, I would have liked to see awareness go on for at least one more year; as not only do I believe that awareness of our existence has stumbled somewhat during the lockdown but also, come on, how can you leave it at 49 years and not the big 5-0?

Nevertheless, I do agree that it is long past the time to bring acceptance and understanding in the next step of our campaign for equality. So, while I feel cheated that we missed out on being able to celebrate such a grandiose landmark, I agree that, with the slow nature of change, there really was no time like the present to get this development underway.

 So here’s to the new Autism Acceptance Month, may it reign strong for equally as long an era – and hopefully one extra year.

4. Elon Musk Discloses He Has ‘Asperger’s’

Elon Musk as Wario (Because why not?)

*Sigh* At this stage, I swear I must have done something wrong in a past life. I mean, how else can you explain how I am eternally fated to keep discussing Elon Musk?

Nevertheless, here we are again and this time Musk has made the news, not for his manipulation of stock markets, character assassinating lies or his constant effort to deny familial connections to the slave trade, but due to his Spring appearance on Saturday Night Live, in which the asshat entrepreneur disclosed his diagnosis of Asperger’s.

Now, to be fair, this was a pretty strong moment from a pretty awful guy; demonstrating the diversity and potential which lies across the spectrum and, to give further credit where it’s due, I particularly thought it was great how Musk disclosed on a show known for its comedy – illustrating how autistic people can be funny (even if Musk did steal his material from independent comic writers on YouTube).

The announcement didn’t sit well with everyone in the autism community though, as Musk’s use of the outdated term ‘Asperger’s’ caused its fair share of controversy in the aftermath of his disclosure. However, while I do love to give grief to Mr Musk, his choice of words on this occasion are fair game as, if this is what he was diagnosed with (which, given his age, he likely would have been), then it would be more peculiar if he disclosed using the new level system.

But, at the risk of having to defend Elon Musk anymore, I will link an article to a full discussion of the new autism levelling system in lieu of an explanation and move on to the next highlight.

3. The INSAR Conference More Than Makes Up for Lacklustre 2020

The INSAR Conference on a laptop

Promising all the interesting, academic tidbits, The International Society for Autism Research conference (aka The INSAR conference) is a hotly anticipated, annual, talking point for our community which, despite somewhat of a stumble last year, is always full of need-to-know knowledge-bombs.

In 2021, this was perhaps most obvious as, without a doubt, this year’s show easily had some of the most fascinating studies, slides and Zoom events to date: providing a fountain of fascination that covered a whole slew of subjects including *deep breathe* in no particular order *even bigger breath*:

  1. A look at how the unique anxiety from a lost routine or not having access to a special interest may be linked to having a smaller amygdala (something which is particularly interesting when compared to previous research which found that a large amygdala is more common in autistic people with challenging behaviours) – read more
  2.  A new study which looks at how siblings of autistic people benefit in later life (a great read for someone who feels particularly guilty about the trials he put his sister through when he was younger) – read more
  3. A report on how daily sensory issues, problems in the gut or lower pain tolerance, are more commonly being used as an explanation for why high numbers of autistic females are missing out on school, work and other critical life events – read more
  4.  A look at how autistic people physically see the world, including new eye-tracking technology and one fascinating study which looked at how the autistic mind holds and processes an image longer than non-autistic people, leading to a kind of image overlay in our minds (something I will be exploring in a post later this month) – read more
  5.  A study of how autism interventions are inaccurately being assessed due to an overreliance on second-hand accounts from caregivers – read more
  6. Evidence of how autistic females may be better at reading social cues than autistic males (however, less than non-autistic females) as autistic females find faces more ‘interesting’ – read more

Lastly, on a note related to the conference but not so much autism, it seems that this year really was an experiment in itself as, shortly after the event finished, a few comments from attendees online mentioned that some had suffered from the very real threat of virtual exhaustion.

Of course, while this doesn’t have too much to do with autism itself, it should still be a takeaway from the event, in that we should all learn to take more breaks from the screen, especially as we continue working from home (although not before you finish this post, share it with friends and family and comment below about what a wonderful job I did in capturing the spirit of the season!).

2. Autism Rates in Northern Ireland Erupt to 1 in 20

Northern Ireland

It’s easy to read headlines sharing impressive statistics (like the one above) and take them as the somewhat shocking gospel truth. Yet, when it does come to proclamations of this calibre, most would do well to take a step back and see whether any cherry-picking of the facts has taken place (which it almost always has).

So, what fudging of the facts may have been afoot when April reports claimed that autistic rates in Northern Ireland had tripled? Unsurprisingly, quite a lot, with the short of it being that more people aren’t becoming autistic, but a larger number of people are being suspected of being on the spectrum due to:

  • The Autism Act bringing higher awareness
  • Better diagnostic tools being introduced
  • A lack of differentiation between many diagnoses (citing people as autistic and not considering stand alone co-aligning conditions (where someone with sensory processing disorders will flippantly be diagnosed with vanilla autism).

Furthermore, when you get into the weeds of these reports, it should also be noted that the claims are usually referring to young age groups i.e aged 4-15 – a demographic which, whilst broad, isn’t indicative of the whole country – although it does raise even more questions surrounding what is going on within Generation Z (or is that Generation Alpha?)

Nevertheless, instead of focusing on how more people came to get a diagnosis in the first place, the sharp increase should also be a warning sign to make preparations for what’s to come. In particular, it should now be a priority to make sure that the health sector is ready to support a budding generation of autists – something which, by many accounts, it is not.

1. The Queen’s Honours Features Large Number of Advocates

The Queen's Honours List

No matter what you may think of the British Royal Family, it’s hard not to be impressed when any individual makes the Queen’s honours list. These are the people who have been handpicked for carrying communities to progression across the UK and, my Lord, if the most recent list didn’t feature a lot of incredible names from our small, yet powerful, neck of the woods.

Of course, it’s easy to get distracted by the big names announced this year; including the likes of former Strictly Come Dancing judge: Arlene Phillips, Manchester City footballer: Raheem Sterling and, inexplicably not including the all-around legend: Chris Whitty. However, in this final piece of autism news for Spring 2021, I wanted to highlight the 4 autism advocates who cut the mustard this season, they are:

  • Paula McGowan. Campaigner for the improved treatment and understanding of people with learning disabilities within health care.
  • Eira & Harold Heywood. Co-founders and Trustees of Bolton Adult Autism Support: a charity created to support and educate society on the often-ignored needs of autistic adults (both diagnosed and undiagnosed)
  • Dr Claire Prosser. Founder of Spectropolis, a charity that donates reading material and other autism supports to those in need.

Without question, there is a lot to be impressed about from these brief bios. Yet, what I find most incredible about these names is just how diverse their contributions are when it comes to bringing equality and understanding of the spectrum.

This is great as it shows that more and more we are getting better at finding tailored support for individuals (as opposed to the big nets we have previously been throwing) and, now, thanks to ol’ Lizzie’s award, these heroes will be on more people’s radar, better allowing their help to get to those who may need it most.

Carry on the Conversation:

Outside of the world of autism, what were your highlights from Spring 2021? Let me know in the comments below. And, if you would like to read more about the discoveries surrounding the fascinating way that autistic people see the world, well, I don’t actually have anything to share right now (but make sure to check back in a fortnight to find the full post).

As always, I can also be found on Twitter @AutismRevised, on Instagram and via my email: [email protected].

If you like what you have seen on the site today, then show your support by liking the Autistic & Unapologetic Facebook page. Also, don’t forget to sign up to the Autistic & Unapologetic newsletter (found on the sidebar on laptops and underneath if you are reading this via mobile) where I share weekly updates as well as a fascinating fact I have found throughout the week.

Thank you for reading and I will see you next time for more thoughts from across the spectrum.

The post The Top 5 Pieces of Autism News for Spring 2021 appeared first on Autistic & Unapologetic.


By: James Sinclair
Title: The Top 5 Pieces of Autism News for Spring 2021
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Published Date: Sun, 04 Jul 2021 08:01:16 +0000

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