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What is World Autism Understanding Day?

This year our World Autism Understanding Day (WAUD) themes have been chosen by members of Aspect’s Autistic community. The themes give us an insight into the everyday challenges of Autistic people and encourage us all to be more understanding and accepting.

Autism researchers stand with the Autistic community, recognising their strengths and contributions to society, and desire and right to be their authentic selves. In support of the Autistic community, we have paired each WAUD theme with a recent research study to heighten autism understanding among the community.

If you find out that I’m Autistic, I want you to know …

About 370,000* Australians are Autistic and each person has different strengths, interests, challenges and aspiration.

*Based on latest prevalence estimates and Australian Bureau of Statistics census data

Exhaustion is one of the greatest consequences of social camouflaging for Autistic adults. Camouflaging requires intensive concentration, self-control, management of discomfort and is hard to maintain over time.

“Putting on My Best Normal”: Social Camouflaging in Adults with Autism Spectrum Conditions, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (2017)

Just because you don't see something doesn't mean it isn't there. The ‘double empathy problem’ refers to a breakdown in understanding between two people. It calls on both Autistic and non-Autistic people to demonstrate “a position of humility in the face of difference, the need to build rapport and understanding and not assume a lack of capacity for understanding”.

The ‘double empathy problem’: Ten years on, Autism (2022)

Autistic masking “is the process of intentionally, or unintentionally, hiding aspects of yourself to avoid harm.” Research tells us that masking places an incredible burden on Autistic people, one that only gets harder with age and practice.

”Masking Is Life”: Experiences of Masking in Autistic and Nonautistic Adults, Autism in Adulthood (2021)

Autism diagnoses are typically based on a person’s deficits. But we are seeing a shift, where many people are calling for a strengths-based approach that seeks to understand Autistic people and their individual strengths while also acknowledging places where support may be needed. It is a quest to move away from presuming incompetence, to presuming competence.

An Expert Discussion on Strengths-Based Approaches in Autism, Autism in Adulthood (2019)

#TakeTheMaskOff is a campaign advocating for Autistics to be themselves – to stop pretending to enjoy eye-contract, to feel free to stim or wear noise cancelling headphones. This article talks about how the Neuromajority enjoys the privilege of fitting in without masking or camouflaging, both of which negatively impact mental health.

Autistic Masking, Camouflaging, and Neurotypical Privilege: Towards a Minority Group Model of Neurodiversity, Human Development

Autistic burnout is associated with negative physical and mental health outcomes for Autistic adults. We can support Autistic friends and family members who are experiencing burnout by communicating acceptance, social support, helping reduce expectations, and supporting them to unmask.

‘‘Having All of Your Internal Resources Exhausted Beyond Measure and Being Left with No Clean-Up Crew’’: Defining Autistic Burnout, Autism in Adulthood (2020)


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