Although it is important to acknowledge the difficulties faced by many autistic people, many of them would argue that they are more disabled by a lack of understanding and acceptance within society than the autism itself. Much of the work we do at Leeds Autism Services is concerned with promoting acceptance and empathy towards the people we support. It can be argued that, by focussing too much on the disabling effects of autism, we lose focus of the positive aspects. We need to change the way we think about autistic people. Here are just a few examples of how you can think about autism in a more positive light:

Autistic people have great focus and are truly dedicated to their interests - It is a commonly held assertion that some of the greatest minds in history may have been autistic, and it is their obsessive focus, singlemindedness and differing ability to process information, which has probably led to their successes. Examples include Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Alan Turing and more recently Greta Thunberg and Chris Packham.

Autistic people are less likely to care what other people think about their interests - Autistic people will generally put their all into mastering their area of interest, regardless of whether or not anyone thinks it’s ‘uncool’. Autistic people have special interests because they find them fascinating, not because anyone tells them what to like.

Autistic people can be hyper-observant and tend to live in the moment - Despite having a reputation for being withdrawn, autistic people actually tend to be more acutely aware of what is happening around them, and completely focussed on the here and now. This also enables some autistic people to take in huge amounts of information at once.

Autistic people are more direct and straightforward - Most autistic people don’t shy away from telling the truth and saying things how they see them. They are less likely to have a hidden agenda, and have a tendency to be very honest

Autistic people are less afraid of just being themselves - Many people with autism just don’t bogged down with peer pressure and social niceties, and have a refreshing attitude ‘this is me, and if you don’t like it, tough!’

Autistic people have fantastic memory and recall - How many non-autistic people can remember the details of a conversation which took place 5 years ago, name every Disney character that’s been in a film, or memorise an entire bus timetable? Due to differences in how memories are processed, similar feats are not uncommon amongst autistic people.

Autistic people can challenge our preconceptions and open our minds to new ideas - Autistic people tend to think in very practical terms, and are more likely to think in terms of ‘cause and effect’ than worry about doing things just because that’s what is expected. Just because we’re used to doing something in a certain way, it doesn’t mean it’s the best way!

Autistic people communicate in new and unique ways - People with autism have a reputation of being poor communicators, especially those with limited verbal skills. However, in reality they are more likely to develop their own, unique, way of communicating. They can be incredibly effective communicators; other people just need to take the time to learn their language

Autistic people are fast visual learners - People with autism tend to be able to pick up new skills incredibly quickly when they observe someone else undertaking a task. Not only that, but once they’ve seen something once, they’ll remember it for life.

People with autism are less judgemental - They will tend to focus on who the person is, rather than bothering about personal appearance, what bands someone is into, or who they hang around with. Autistic people tend to gravitate towards people who are kind-hearted, honest and trustworthy, rather than people who fit any particular social profile

Autism Positivity Campaign