TODAY marks the start of Autism Awareness Week 2018, which aims to raise funds for the National Autistic Society and promote understanding of the condition.

People on the autism spectrum see, hear and feel the world in a different way. This can lead to difficulties interacting with other people, taking part in everyday activities and with learning.

It can also make people with autism more susceptible to mental health issues and can be related to a range of other conditions including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

According to the NHS, as many as 700,000 people across the UK are on the autism spectrum. This is approximately one in 100 people, so the chances are most people will know someone with autism.

However, autism is often difficult to identify and diagnose because the signs are not always obvious. Many people with autism are diagnosed when they are children, but it can be diagnosed much later in life.

According to research gathered by the National Autistic Society, more than one in three children on the autism spectrum are bullied at school while 63 per cent are not in the best kind of school their parents think would be the best for their needs.

A further 70 per cent of autistic adults do not believe they are getting the right kind of help, even though the same number said that with the right support they would feel less isolated from the rest of society.

The fact is that it doesn’t have to be this way.

Although people with autism have additional challenges to overcome in their lives, it is often no obstacle to a successful career, family or a good quality of life.

With understanding and support from other people, their ability to overcome these challenges is hugely improved.

This Autism Awareness Week, I would strongly encourage anyone to look out for fundraising events in their area and give what you can to help the work of the National Autistic Society.

I would also encourage everyone to take a few minutes to visit the National Autistic Society’s website at, which has a large amount of information about autism and the things you can do to support people with autism.

Although there is no cure for autism, if we spend the time to learn about and understand the condition, we can help make the lives of those with it so much better.