According to The National Autistic Society around 1 percent of the population in the UK are autistic. That might seem like a tiny amount, and while I agree that it is very much a minority of people, I can not stress enough how important it is that one percent matters.
We are only every as strong as our weakest members and everyone is important.
At any point any one of us could find ourselves to be that 1 in 100 for any number of reasons.
Let’s put some of the struggles autistic children and adults face daily into perspective with other groups that are around 1 to 2 percent of the population too and see how important it is that we support everyone, even if they are only 1 in every 100.
Many people with autism face discrimination in employment.
Only 16 percent of autistic adults are in full time employment. Let’s look at that another way for a moment. Did you know that around 1-2% of the UK population have green eyes? What if only 16% of those with green eyes were in full time employment? I suspect that would make headline news, make the government concerned and initiate further research. Autistic people should count just as much as everyone with green eyes.
Many children with autism are denied the educational support they need to reach their full potential.
According to Department for Education figures for England there was a 35% increase between 2015 and 2016 in the number of local authority refusals to carry out EHC (Education and Health Care) needs assessments on children. Lets look at this another way: did you know that between 1 and 2 percent of the population have red hair? Imagine if a third of school pupils with red hair were refused the education support plan they needed ? Would we not be rightly angry about this? Autistic children count just as much as those with red hair. What are we doing to help these children?
Many children and adults with autism are bullied.
A recent survey in the United States found that 63% of children with autism reported being bullied, with many more unable to say due to communication difficulties. No-one should experience bullying but let’s put this in perspective again: 1 to 2 percent of the UK population are vegetarians. Imagine if two thirds of them consistently complained their were bullied because they were in a minority group? Why are we more respectful, tolerant and even accommodating of vegetarians than we are autistic people? How we treat one percent of the population really does matter.
Many children with autism are excluded from school.
The most recent national statistics show that, between 2010-14, there was a 35% increase in the number of autistic pupils excluded for a fixed period and the number of pupils permanently excluded has doubled over the last three years. What if we took another group of people who happen to be in the 1-2% in Britain and used the same statistics? What if there was a 35 percent increase in people with celiac disease excluded for a fixed period from school? Yes they are very different conditions but they both represent a similar percentage of the population. Autistic people deserve the same support as those with celiac disease.
People with autism often face sensory issues that make daily life a struggle.
Thankfully we are getting more aware of this through campaigns such as the too much information campaign by the National Autistic society and seeing an increase in autism friendly shopping times and businesses making accommodations.
A similar proportion of the UK population have food allergies and, of course, despite them only being around 1-2% of the population we are, as a society, accepting the seriousness and concerns they face and starting to address this too in the form of clearer packaging and better understanding.
My point is that everyone matters.
I am not autistic but my children are. They may be in just 1-2% of the population but so could anyone of us if we look at different things like hair colour, medical conditions, blood groups, income or any number of other factors.
1% matters. 1% of nuts in a recipe could kill someone.
1% of your house collapsing could be fatal if it was in a supporting place.
1% battery in your phone may be enough to dial 999 and save your life.
1% is important. How we treat 1% of our population matters so much.
For the sake of my children and all those others in the 1 to 2 percent of the population who are autistic please respect everyone and support autistic people to lead the best and most productive lives they can.
Everyone matters. In fact the less a percentage perhaps matter even more because it makes it different, unique and special, exactly like my children are.