How autism awareness is growing in Croydon


By - Wednesday 20th April, 2016

Carer Loren Dixon sees attitudes changing for the better in our borough


Autism Awareness Flag

Autism awareness flag at Croydon Town Hall.
Photo author’s own.

On Wednesday 6th April at 12:30 pm, between the shopping and the rain, I managed to catch  glimpse of Croydon’s mayor, Patricia Hay-Justice, Croydon Champion for Autism Councillor Andrew Rendle, Councillor Louisa Woodley and other familiar faces from the Town Hall balcony.

The mayor was in attendance at the launch of Croydon’s new Autism Awareness e-learning course and to raise the flag about the importance of the topic. The course is now up and running on the Croydon Council website and is free. It is available to everyone who works and live in the Croydon borough.

So why do we have World Autism Awareness Day (2nd April) and Autism Awareness week in Croydon (2nd-8th April)? For me, it is to let everyone be informed and to get a general understanding of what autism is and how it affects the individual and their families.

Individuals can appear to be coping when their reality is completely different

Autism is a word often used nowadays but it can still be confusing. The National Autistic Society states that it is a “lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them”.

I have found that carers and parents often have concerns that high-functioning children and adults with autism may appear to be coping but are really not coping at all, or are just getting by. It is so easy to assume that all is well when someone is at a mainstream school and appears to getting on with their school work, coursework or even at the workplace. Their reality can be completely different, especially when they are in their home environment and with families.

This brings to my mind the recent influx of TV documentaries and dramas about autism which I do appreciate. The television series The A Word illustrates the effects of a recent diagnosis of autism for a five year old and his family. In the popular hospital drama Holby City one of the consultants is juggling her career and relationship with her autistic adult nephew. The latter is my favourite as it showed humour as well seriousness in the nephew’s personality, demonstrating that though he may appear to be high functioning and independent, he still needs adequate care and support tailored to his needs.

As a carer for family members, I know that not every adult and child diagnosed with autism will show the same autistic traits. Just as you and I have layers to our personality, so do they. This just demonstrates what a vast spectrum autism is. Many who find out that their son, daughter, sister, brother or partner has just been diagnosed with autism face a very lonely journey. Autism awareness increases our knowledge and can equip us and others in what can be a confusing world. That can only be a positive thing.

Loren Dixon

Loren Dixon

Loren is a full time carer for an adult sibling who is autistic and is a member of a Autism Family/Parent Support Group in Croydon. She also volunteers for the South London Botanical Institute when she has time and has worked in the cultural & heritage sector. After a long spell of not painting and drawing she has returned to it by finding enjoyment in a new medium to her, botanical illustration.

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