We started in 1962 as a small group of friends who were frustrated at the lack of understanding and help available for us and our children.

Then, the term 'autism' was virtually unknown among the general population. Incredible as it now seems, autistic children were labelled 'psychotic' and 'sub-normal'. 'Cold', ' intellectual' parenting was blamed for the condition and the term 'refrigerator mother' was born, blighting families everywhere.

Getting a diagnosis was only the first of many hurdles parents faced, and those with children deemed 'uneducable' were confronted with the horror of the institution.

During that year, the seeds of practically all our activities were planted and our first Parliamentary question was asked.

Founding member and long-time supporter, Ilse, talks about how she got involved with the charity when it first started.

Today, society's understanding of and attitudes towards autism are, thankfully, radically different. Ninety nine per cent of the public now recognise the term 'autism' and we had gathered enough politician support by 2009 to get the first-ever Autism Act passed. Our charity and all our supporters over the decades have played a considerable role in this shift.

But many of the difficulties that autistic people and their families experienced back in 1962 are still familiar today. People still struggle to get the support, understanding and appreciation they deserve.

We now know that more than one in 100 people are autistic – that's around 700,000 people in the UK today. We also know that our charity alone can only directly support a small proportion of these people, their families and friends.

That's why our aim is to spread the understanding of autism and autism practice that we have developed over 50 years. We will give very best information and advice possible to autistic people, their families and others so that more people can make informed decisions about their lives. We will pass on our knowledge to professionals working in education, health, social care and beyond. And we'll push wider society to understand autism better so that fewer people feel unable to engage with their communities.

We want to inform, inspire and motivate. We want lasting change. Our work has given us the experience, expertise and determination to do this.

You can help by donating, campaigning or volunteering with us. We need your support to get everyone on the autism spectrum the support, understanding and appreciation they deserve.

Until everyone understands.