Unless you live with autism or know someone with it, it can be very hard to understand exactly what autism is like. However a powerful new film released by the National Autistic Society gives people a good visual indication and understanding, while also raising awareness around how to better communicate with people with autism.
What's also remarkable about the film, which was made in collaboration with creative agency Don't Panic, is that it stars 12-year-old Holly, who is herself autistic. And Holly used the film above as a platform to tell her school classmates and friends, for the first time, that she suffers from autism.
The film was also released to coincide with World Autism Awareness Day on 2 April and follows Holly as she boards a bus, goes ice skating, and goes about her day. One of the main themes of the video is to show how someone who is autistic processes information differently, seeing, hearing and feeling the world differently to other people. Which means often a situation will arise that can seem overwhelming. "Sometimes I get too much information." Holly notes. "It’s as if my brain is too crowded – and about to explode."
And so the film asks for people to be mindful of this when they come in to contact with someone who is autistic. This sense of overwhelming and overload is also why many people who have autism, and families of autistic people, avoid going out in public. Which is a problem as it's lifelong developmental disability.
Changing People's Behaviour Towards Autism
“Sometimes I get really upset that people do not understand autism." Holly explains. "But I hope this campaign will help improve understanding and make other people who are autistic feel more accepted. If just one person sees the film and is more understanding to autistic people, I’ll be happy.”
Many people have said they would change their behaviour towards autistic people, once they know that people with autism need more time to process information. So by watching the film and showing others, the National Autistic Society hopes more and more people will become aware and act accordingly. Small differences, in the workplace and classroom, can mean a lot and the film wants to help drive a change in attitude and make these spaces more friendly and accepting.
Holly's mun Jo explains "We have been open with Holly about autism so that she understands herself and her emotions. When Holly’s feeling overwhelmed at home, she calms down by going to her room, plays the piano or cuddles one of our cats. But public meltdowns are much more difficult to manage. The stares we receive during a meltdown are damaging."
“We know that people don’t set out to be judgmental towards autistic people." explains Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society. "The problem is that they often don’t see the autism, they just see the ‘tantrum’ or the ‘difficult person’ and this is making autistic people feel isolated. We’re deeply grateful to Holly, our talented film star, and her family for helping us to share our message. A basic understanding of autism could transform the lives of autistic people and their families, allowing them to go to shops, the cinema, and work in the way other people take for granted.”