Advocate for people on the autism spectrum

Jonathan Hanna

I was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome in 2005, aged 21. I support an Autism Act in Wales because without something stronger and better than the strategy and without the forty thousand pounds funding per council, ring-fenced for people with autism, I fear that talented people with much to offer society will be forgotten about, as I was for many years.

Social opportunities have been scarce as I moved through my twenties, but what saddens me more is that I know there are countless people in the community that are in that position.

It doesn’t matter that, like me, they are witty, talented people with much to offer socially and in the workplace. Will these people ever be given the services to help bridge the gap between dreaming about working and making that desire a reality?

I’m lucky, as I’ve been given opportunities to volunteer, which is leading on to more substantial projects. Could I have done this without countless hours of support from dedicated people? Categorically no. Before these opportunities, I’d given up on myself and on life.

What’s the alternative to supporting these guys in gaining social skills and confidence? A silent crowd of numerous people who feel they have nothing to offer. Let’s have people on the spectrum be real contributors to society. That’s one reason this money needs to remain ring-fenced.

Despite having enormous potential at school, I was so traumatised by my experiences there, that I didn’t even sit my GCSEs. My intelligence meant nothing as there was no support in place. It's taken me fifteen years to start learning again, which highlights how people with autism and their needs are dismissed.

A couple of days before writing this, I was zipping through pages of algebraic equations, questioning how it could be possible that I’d only been able to re-start my learning aged 29. How many others are unable to access education? For those unable to have basic human rights, like an education, they can easily be forgotten and left on benefits.

It is imperative that the Autism Act is implemented and not left on a piece of paper somewhere, which has no effect on anybody. It is crucial to our economy, but most importantly for people with autism, that this money remains solely to support them in reaching their potential. Let’s ensure that a child of fourteen isn’t writing this same thing, sixteen years later, like I am. We must act now!