As a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Autism I’m keen to do all I can to promote awareness of autism in Bristol. So I was very happy to attend a reception at the Houses of Parliament recently where I met several people living with autism and listened to their concerns.

The event was attended by nearly one hundred parliamentarians and the President of the National Autistic Society, Jane Asher.

Jane told us that awareness of the word ‘autism’ has increased hugely since she first became involved many years ago, but actual understanding of the condition is still extremely low. Autism is a lifelong condition which affects more than one in 100 people in the UK – that’s over 3,000 people in every parliamentary constituency.  Many have battled to get their needs identified, diagnosed, understood and then met.

Talking to individuals living with the condition was a moving experience and made me understand more clearly how public misconceptions can have a negative impact on their lives and those of their families.

I want to ensure that those living with the condition have better access to employment and services, and have the same opportunities as everyone else to lead successful and happy lives. I am currently working with Bristol City Council, the National Autistic Society and Bristol’s Autism Forum to help ensure that the Council’s autism strategy for Bristol is being effectively implemented.

What is autism?

Autism is a complex condition, but the National Autistic Society have provided me with this brief summary.

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them. It is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people with autism share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways. Some people with autism are able to live relatively independent lives but others may have accompanying learning disabilities and need a lifetime of specialist support. People with autism may also experience oversensitivity, or sometimes undersensitivity, to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours.

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