To embrace National Autism week, Zenith People invited in guest speaker Dee Leng, to help increase our understanding of what it means to be an individual with autism. Dee is mum to twin children (age 12) who were diagnosed with the condition as infants. Her perspective was a personal one, and its detail and honesty gave us invaluable insight into her family’s journey, helped us to dispel the myths and gain an understanding of what it truly means to be autistic.

Dee began by taking us back to the very beginning, before her children were officially diagnosed. She described the various characteristics and signs that lead to them eventually undergoing a professional assessment. We found particularly interesting, the vast difference between the twin’s personalities and behaviours. When someone tells you they have autistic twins, it is easy to assume that they have the same behaviours and traits. Their contrast is a key example of how vast the spectrum of autism is.

Through sharing heart-warming anecdotes about how her family continues to succeed through life’s progressive changes – with their individual needs and rewards – Dee helped us to dissipate some key myths regarding the thoughts and feelings of an autistic person. ‘People with autism don’t want friends’ and ‘people with autism don’t feel emotion’, were two key concepts that Dee addressed. Through describing how her children uniquely require and respond to socialising and interpreting emotions, Dee acquainted us with the thoughts and feelings of an autistic individual, those that could go unnoticed without education and awareness.

Amongst many revelations, our guest speaker encouraged us to be aware of how indirect, vague or satirical methods of communication have the potential to create misunderstanding and even distress for someone with an autistic outlook. Through listening to her story, we recognise that diversifying our communication methods to better connect with someone on the condition’s spectrum, is not merely to avoid ‘distress’, but more importantly to help us recognise their full potential and character. Dee lovingly emphasised the high ability of her children’s intellect, through stories of their achievements and capabilities; she aptly stated, “Autism is not a disability, it’s a different ability”.

As well as supporting our awareness of how varied the spectrum of autism is, the truth behind the myths and the significance of recognising individual needs, Dee shed light on the importance of being understanding and adaptive in order to bring out the best in someone with autism. The experience and knowledge she shared has been an inspiration and will support our personal and professional perception of and approach to autism. For this, we are incredibly thankful to Dee – and her wonderful family – for sharing their story with us.

To find out more information and how you can get involved with national autism week, visit https://www.autism.org.uk/get-involved/world-autism-awareness-week.aspx