Stress is the single biggest factor affecting quality of life for autistic people and their families, causing significant impact across all key aspects of life including school, work, health and mental health, relationships and behaviour.
"I feel so stressed most of the day. I feel like it's my constant companion." Anonymous, autistic adult
“Stress can make me feel near suicidal. Exhausted. Inadequate.” Karen, autistic adult
“I always feel panicked. I've completely lost my confidence at work." Anonymous, mother of autistic son
In a new survey, Research Autism found that 98% of autistic adults and their carers said stress is a significant issue for them, with 89% adding it is difficult or impossible to find effective support in dealing with stress.
Research Autism has launched a campaign to address the issue of stress in autism. Autistic people and their families say stress is the biggest issue in their lives. Stress in autism is much more common, severe and disabling than in the general population and often has long-term and sometimes devastating consequences.
Despite wide recognition that autistic people are particularly susceptible to adverse consequences of stress there simply isn’t enough quality research into the nature of stress in autism and how to properly help and support those people affected.
“Our survey confirms that stress has a massive effect on health, especially mental health, relationships, education and work. Parents told us stress has led to family breakdown; autistic people told us it rules pretty much every aspect of their lives;” says Richard Mills, Director of Research at Research Autism.
“It is very well known that stress is a big factor in autism and yet little investment has been made in research into understanding and responding to it. In fact some of the ways autistic children and adults are treated seems to make matters worse. Current research has also done little to reduce the significant stress found amongst families and carers of autistic people. This must change. We must act now.”
"This campaign, leading to better outcomes through research, is desperately needed and I would plead with funding bodies, government departments and individuals to back it financially and donate whatever they can to help. I reacted to the extreme stress in my own care environment by becoming non-verbal as a way to cope, so I am passionate about seeing effective strategies to reduce stress and support families in place" describes Joe Powell, National Director of All Wales People First and autistic adult. "I call on the Government to support this campaign and ensure its findings are acted upon."
**You can see our campaign featured in the August 2016 edition of the National Autistic Society's Your Autism publication here.**
Research Autism is organising an international Stress Summit in November, to listen to autistic people, their families, professionals, and leading scientists and researchers. We need to better understand the issues, explore the knowledge gaps and identify the research priorities.We will then commision critical research that builds on any promising approaches and works towards practical tools and strategies for dealing with stress.
This will be an ongoing piece of work. Please follow our activity on social media and share across your networks, using the hashtag #BeatingStress