Effects of Autism on the Individual and their Family

For individuals with autism, their social
impairments lead to:
Difficulty in understanding what is
happening around them
An inability to predict what will
happen
This creates considerable insecurity and
anxiety on a daily basis, which is often
expressed through various stress-reducing
obsessive behaviours e.g. flapping, rocking
or even challenging behaviours – full-
blown tantrums, punching, biting, and
kicking.
Because autism is not a visible physical
disability, the general public is still quick
to condemn “odd” behaviour. They
assume a child with A.S.C. is just being
naughty or the parents are not controlling
the child. Consequently, many parents
avoid taking their children to public places
rather than risk the behaviour difficulties
and resulting public judgment when their
child becomes anxious. This causes not
only the child with autism, but also any
siblings, to become housebound and
isolated, which has a profound effect on
their social and emotional wellbeing.
The impact of having A.S.C. for an
individual means that they often
experience failure in school, social and
work situations. This leads to lack of
confidence and low self-esteem. For many
it leads to high anxiety, depression and
mental health difficulties. Many people
with A.S.C. are also very vulnerable to
abuse because of their social deficit. Being
bullied and taken advantage of by so-
called “friends” is not unusual.
As adults, many find that they are
misunderstood and some tragically break
the law and commit crimes, often related
to their lack of social understanding or
imagination. For example, following a
member of the public who they might be
obsessed about becomes “stalking”. It is
imperative that resources are made
available to help adults on the spectrum
to learn life skills and social
communication skills in order to cope in
society. Without this support they do
become isolated and marginalized by
society.
Caring for an autistic child or young adult
can be a tremendous emotional, financial
and physical strain. Parents feel judged
by society, guilty that their child is
missing out and not knowing how best to
help them, which all takes a toll on the
parents and siblings. For many families,
at least one parent cannot work and often
families break up under the stress of living
with someone with autism, which puts a
massive financial burden on them. Often,
autistic people have disturbed sleep
patterns and they need constant
supervision which is physically
exhausting. As they grow up, the children
become too strong to handle if they throw
a tantrum. Parents become isolated and
depressed and many would reach breaking
point without help.
Siblings, too, suffer from being in a very
stressful environment, unable to socialize
because of the difficulties at home, and
unable to go out as a family. Some
become carers for their autistic sibling in
an effort to help their parents, and the
strain and neglect is well documented to
have long term psychological effects.
Siblings desperately need time out away
from their autistic brother or sister to
enjoy the same sort of activities and social
experiences as their peers.

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