Over 99% of people have heard of autism, but only 16% of autistic people feel the public understand them.

In 2015, autistic people and their families told us that increasing public understanding of autism is the most important thing the National Autistic Society should be doing (alongside improving social care, education and access to diagnosis).

We created the Too Much Information campaign to challenge myths, misconceptions and stereotypes that means that 79% of autistic people feel socially isolated. The campaign ran for three years from 2015-2018 helping the public to better understand autism and the change they can make.

What was the campaign about?

Autistic people and their families told us that the big five things that they wanted the public to understand were that autistic people can:

  • Need extra time to process information
  • Experience anxiety in social situations
  • Experience anxiety with unexpected changes
  • Find noise, smells and bright lights painful and distressing
  • Become overwhelmed and experience a 'meltdown' or 'shutdown'

How did we do it?

We made a range of powerful and popular films showing autistic people in everyday situations and increasing understanding about their reality.

  • Sensory overload: 11-year-old Alex Marshall starred in our first film which was viewed by over 56 million people. Our partnership with The Guardian saw over 400,000 visits and a 26% rise in autism awareness. Over 17,000 people put their mark on our Too Much Information map to show they care about autism. 8,000 people in intu shopping centres across the UK tried our our virtual reality film.
  • Barriers to work: We know that only 16% of autistic people are in full-time employment. As part of our employment campaign, we talked to autistic people and found out they felt that employers don’t see their ability, but rather their autism. We showed this in another film – 'Could you Stand the Rejection?'Over 29,000 people signed our petition to close the autism employment gap, which we presented to Penny Mordaunt MP, the Minister for Disabilities, at Westminster in March 2017. We continue to lobby behind the scenes to help autistic people to get the jobs they deserve.
  • Needing extra time: Through the story of schoolgirl Holly, we wanted people to understand that autistic people need extra time to process information. 6.2 million people watched Holly’s film and 8,000 pledged small changes to their behaviour to reduce overload for autistic people. Our additional video 'How many questions can you answer?' put brains to the test and shared what it felt like to get too much information.
  • Unexpected change: The last film, Diverted, with Saskia Lupin focused on the impact that unexpected changes can have on autistic people. It was the best received film in terms of reality and relevance to our audience. The film had over 2.5 million views and impressive press coverage. Our open letter to the Department of Transport, received 10,298 signatures and resulted in a commitment to improve the accessibility of public transport. The Government committed up to £300 million into extending the Access for All programme, making railway stations more accessible. As well as a £2 million passenger awareness campaign to increase disability awareness and reduce hate crime on transport networks.

What's next?

We know that our Too Much Information campaign activities have an impact on public understanding of autism. When our campaign is most active we see, through our independent public polling, increases in people’s knowledge of autism and the big five.

However, truly transforming public understanding of autism is a long-term challenge and one that requires sustained activity over many years.

Our Too Much Information campaign was designed to run for three years. Although this has come to an end we are now seeking to understand the next phase of the public understanding challenge. In the meantime we will continue to campaign to increase public understanding and change attitudes through a range of activity including Autism Hour and World Autism Awareness Week.

Find out more