‘Include us’ – poignant plea from report as 91pc believe autism is a barrier to acceptance

Adam Harris of AsIam

Eilish O'Regan

“Invite us. Include us.”

That is the plaintive plea emanating from a new report showing 91pc of people surveyed believe autism is a barrier to being accepted and making friends.

And as many as 86pc feel people with autism do not have the same chances in life as others without the condition.

The feelings of exclusion and isolation have emerged in a new report published today by AsIAm, Ireland’s national autism charity.

Up to 90pc fear the Irish public does not understand enough about autism.

The insights emerged from a survey of 1,600 autistic people, parents, family members and carers.

The report finds 61pc do not see the education system as inclusive and this rises to 75pc when it comes to healthcare. As many as 68pc are on waiting lists to access services, and more than a third say they have suffered discrimination in the past year.

Significantly, 81pc report that being autistic makes the cost-of-living crisis worse.

The majority of responses relate to children, while autistic adults aged over 18 made up 30pc.

Adam Harris, chief executive of AsIAm, said: “Depriving autistic people of the same chance does not just have devastating consequences on the at-least 3.3pc of people in Ireland who are autistic. It also represents a loss of diversity, talent and perspective for Irish society as a whole.

“This report depicts a very depressing landscape of autistic people just wanting the same chance as everyone else to live long, healthy and happy lives. No more, no less.

"It is important that inclusion is not defined merely as access to services such as education or healthcare. It is about public transport, the workplace, and life in the community in a much broader sense.

"Autistic people will only enjoy equality in Irish life if we live in communities which are informed, accepting and affirming of our community. Yes, there has been progress in some areas – but there is so much work still to be done.

“We look forward to the Government response in the upcoming Oireachtas Committee on Autism, and to hearing the minister’s strategy,” he said.

Some of the comments in the report revealed the depth of people’s struggle.

One respondent wrote: “I wish they knew how hard simple tasks are – like going to the shops, finding a school place, taking part in sports.”

Another said: “Just because I excel in work doesn’t mean I don’t need supports in other areas of my life.

"Being autistic is different for everyone, especially for women and girls. I seem fine sometimes, so they think I’m like that all the time.”

A third respondent said: “We’re always left out of birthday parties and sports. In school we’re in an autism class but want to spend more time in a mainstream class – the school won’t allow this.”

Sunday is World Autism Day, and AsIAm is hosting a 5km fundraising walk at Belmont Demesne in Wicklow, starting at 11 am.