The case for increasing autism awareness

Greta Thunberg, the 16 year old climate activist with Aspergers, described by Trump’s favourite TV network, Fox News as “a mentally ill Swedish child who is being exploited by her parents and by the international left” motivated 4 million people last week worldwide to join a march against the backdrop of a report released by the UN saying climate change is worse than previously thought.

Whatever your views and courageous, inspirational Greta does seem to provoke these, two things are not going to go away – climate change and autism awareness.

For an employee of the mainstream press to classify Aspergers, a form of autism, as “mentally ill” demonstrates a fundamental profound misunderstanding about a condition Greta herself describes as a superpower.

Autism is a spectrum condition and while at one end of the spectrum some may need permanent care, others like Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton and Bill Gates amongst many others are classed as genius.

At BEC (the British Enhancement Centre) we experience this at first hand.  We have a 26 year old, marginalised and failing at school who now has an honours degree in maths and mathematical sciences, has written 2 books and is a STEM ambassador for the Royal Institution.  We have a 12 year old reading the German philosopher Nietzsche (I can’t even read Nietzsche!!) and a 6 year old “failing” at school because the school in question is failing to engage her prodigious intellect!

Quoting Einsteins theory of stupidity, if you keep doing the same things you will continue to get the same results and at this time of ever increasingly rapid change and global challenges we need these geniuses with, according to Greta, superpowers.  We need people who don’t only think “out of the box” they think “what box?”

According to the latest UK survey done in 2004, there are just under 800,000 with autism.  It used to be thought that it was affected 5 boys to each girl, but these figures are now in doubt as there is more emphasis placed on diagnosing boys, and girls hide it better.  It is now thought to affect boys and girls equally.  That being the case, we could be potentially looking at 2 million cases in the UK.

A 2012 report from NICE claims the cost to the NHS in treating autism is £3.1 billion.

A 2017 report from the London School of Economics claims the cost to the UK tax payer is a total of £32.1 billion, three times the cost of cancer but yet only £6.60 per individual is spent on research compared with £295 spend on cancer.  In the report the author claims that autism is the single most expensive medical condition in the UK.

Our argument is that the UK is wasting a huge resource of potential genius and so loosing a huge potential tax revenue.  

What does it take to change an autistic person on benefits to a contributing tax payer?  Simple – a sympathetic ear!  Listen to them, find out what “floats their boat” and then introduce them to potential employers who are desperate for inspirational alternative thinkers to give them the commercial edge they seek.

What do we need?  Increased awareness of autism, increased acceptance of diversity and a willingness to listen.  

Using the simple methods described above we could move a minimum of 10% of autistic people from social support to contributing members of the community.  This would in turn save the NHS £310 million per year but bring in an additional £2.6 billion in tax revenue.

This would give a minimum of 200,000 people in the UK hope, a feeling of validity being a contributing member of society and a chance for them to show their superpowers.

So, why aren’t we doing this?  And why aren’t we giving these people a chance to shine?

That is what we are doing at BEC but one person cannot do this alone.  We need your help and support to make a real difference to countless lives.

Steve Jobs

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify and vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as crazy, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

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