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The Positive Influence Of Social Participation for Young Autistic Men (and Women)

People with psychosocial disability are the most likely disability group to avoid social participation because of their disability – and this is the biggest challenge for autistic young adults.  

65% aged 15 and over avoided situations in the last year, compared with 25% with other disability (ABS 2016).

In general, social  engagement can improve mental health and wellbeing. By taking part in social capacity activities, you can meet new people and make friends. These social connections are key to our health — they help us improve our self-esteem; reduce loneliness; increase happiness; reduce depression; improve cognitive function (memory). Studies suggest that spending time with people who are similar to us makes us feel better about ourselves. When we feel like we belong to a group and that our contributions are valued, it boosts our self-esteem. It helps us learn about ourselves. 

BUT one of the biggest barriers to a person’s participation and inclusion in everyday activities is social isolation. This  differs from loneliness, which is a negative feeling or emotion a person has about their lack of contact or connection to the world around them.

It disproportionately affects those with social anxiety where many have a reduced or non-existent social connection. People with social anxiety may feel isolated, which can lead to higher rates of chronic cognitive, physical and mental ill-health. 

The statistics around this are scary as 1 in 3 (32%) people aged 15 and over with disability have avoided situations because of their disability. This includes:

  • visiting family or friends (40%), and 44% of people with severe or profound disability
  • going to shops and banks (33%), and 42.3% of people with severe or profound disability
  • going to restaurants/cafes/bars (30%), and 37% of people with severe or profound disability
  • using public transport (25%) and 38% of people with severe or profound disability
  • work (24%)
  • using public parks or recreation venues (19%)
  • Going to park or recreation venue (19%)
  • Using medical facilities (GP, Dentist, hospital) (10.8%)
  • Going to school or university (8%)

As parents and carers, we are well and truly aware of this and trying to get our autistic young adults out and about into unpredictable situations is hard.

This is one of the reasons Ignition Gamers was started.  To encourage young men with autism to participate in a group activity.  Making it a face to face group that is fun and doing something they know and enjoy (gaming) in a friendly and safe environment has proven it can be done! 

The focus is on building relationships, helping them connect, making them feel welcome and encouraging them try new things and reach their full potential.

References

View the full report “People with disability in Australia” by AIHW https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/disability/people-with-disability-in-australia/summary  

Sources: Except where stated otherwise, data is taken from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2016 via the AIHW Report 2019: Australians with Disability.  [1] VicDeaf.  [2] Price Waterhouse Coopers, 2011 ‘Disability expectations – investing in a better life, a strong Australia.’  [3] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/aur.2016.  [4] Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia (A4)

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