Are you reading this article while travelling on public transport? Has your journey been delayed, diverted or cancelled? How did this make you feel?
Nine out of 10 autistic people we surveyed say unexpected changes on public transport can make them feel anxious. During World Autism Awareness Week we launched a film called Diverted to help everyone understand autism better.
Disrupted journeys can be frustrating for anyone, but can feel like the end of the world to some autistic people. Just over half (52 per cent ) of autistic people say that a fear of experiencing unexpected changes has stopped them from going on a bus or train. Some people are so worried that they don’t leave the house at all – and this can contribute to autistic people being socially isolated.
Twenty-eight year old Christopher, from Girvan, Ayrshire, is autistic and faces anxiety issues daily. A contributing factor are the barriers he faces because of his autism. He told me about a day trip to the Glasgow Botanic Gardens when he had to go on the subway and the noise and shaking affected him so much that he had to cover his ears and eyes.
He wished the journey would end because he was so embarrassed and felt everyone was looking at him.
Christopher, who attends National Autistic Society social groups in Scotland, is not alone. Our new survey reveals that 67 per cent of autistic people feel the public react negatively (stare, tut, make comments, roll their eyes) when they try to calm themselves down (flapping their hands or rocking back and forth). We know that people don’t set out to be judgmental. The problem is that they often don’t see the autism, they just see somebody acting in a way that isn’t familiar.
Did you know that 58,000 people in Scotland are thought to be on the autism spectrum?
Being autistic means seeing, hearing and feeling the world in a different, often more intense way to other people. Autistic people often find social situations difficult and may struggle to filter out the sounds, smells, sights and information they experience, which can leave them feeling overwhelmed, particularly in busy public places.