We can improve the lives of people affected by autism through research

As an autistic 16-year-old I was surprised to discover that we have a lot to learn about autism. It troubled me that a lack of knowledge could lead to a worse life for many people with autism. At first I thought that it was society in general who needed to "up their game". If society could make alterations for people with autism in an accommodating way then surely people with autism could achieve more. The key to achieving this aim would be to raise awareness and ensure that legislation allowed people with autism to meet their potential - and society in turn could reach its potential. Research shows that society and our culture plays an enormous role in defining our outcome as a person - autistic or not.

Society also thrives with the fostering of knowledge through scientific endeavour. It is through this process that we discovered autism, and improved diagnosis and treatment. I am thankful for these advances and have experienced the way society has begun to make accommodations to supplement this knowledge throughout my life.

When I was 3 years old (1988) experts lacked the knowledge to make an autism diagnosis, but now a lay person may be able to recognise my array of atypical behaviours as autism. At 12 years old, I received a diagnosis and a place in a transformational inclusive educational autism-specific base set within Dyce Academy, Aberdeen, a mainstream school. With their help, my anxiety dissipated and I began to understand the mechanisms of social interaction which came so naturally to my peers. This allowed me to move from a prognosis of a life-time of residential care and chronic mental health problems to leading a typical and independent life. I am now married with a family, and work as a scientist at the University of Aberdeen.

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27th February 2015
Huffington Post