I Am Autistic, Here's What I Wish You'd Do To Help My Day-To-Day Life

Yes, you’re aware of autism. But what are you doing to help those who have it?
Pete Wharmby

It’s not hard to make some really meaningful tweaks that would improve the lives of a lot of autistic people.

And before you begin to wonder why this would ever be relevant to your life, consider that recent data suggests that at least 1 in 36 people are autistic, and that a huge number of people are undiagnosed, and autistic people suffer disproportionately from anxiety and depression in part due to how they are treated by non-autistic people.

So, what can you do to make the lives of autistic people better in your day to day life? Here’s just a small selection of ideas.

Believe us

It’s astonishing how frequently the first response we get upon opening up about being autistic is a dismissive “no! You can’t be!”, or even worse, “ah, don’t be so hard on yourself.”

Needless to say, this knee-jerk scepticism is very invalidating and even cruel, as it can fuel serious self-doubt and the imposter syndrome that affects many who have ‘invisible disabilities’.

Be clear

Don’t lace your sentences with hidden, vague implication and ambiguous purpose. Be totally transparent and if you want a cup of tea, ask for a cup of tea. Autistic people will generally feel much more comfortable as a result as we can often struggle with inference, taking utterances at face value.

Show compassion

Understand that our sensory sensitivity is very real and can be quite debilitating – if we say we can’t handle loud noises or bright lights, we’re not trying to be difficult: they really do cause us a lot of trouble!

Imagine how you will instinctively turn the radio down when parallel parking – but now imagine you can’t turn it down and you’re always parallel parking...

Be patient

Many autistic people struggle with organisation, planning, prioritisation and decision making – especially if we’re also ADHD. It’s not a character flaw or an indication of ‘not being bothered’. It’s a key element of neurodivergent experience and we often exhaust ourselves making up for it.

Be open-minded

Too many people, even now, are wedded to the old stereotypes about autism – namely that autistic people tend to be white young boys and teens.

Often, autistic adults are forgotten about and no one ever seems to think of autistic elders. Autistic women are still far less likely to secure a diagnosis, and autistic Black people and intersectional minority groups are repeatedly and endlessly overlooked or totally ignored.

Pete Wharmby is an autistic parent, teacher and author. His book, Untypical: How the world isn’t built for autistic people, is available now.