young woman rock climbing

To celebrate World Autism Awareness Week and the launch of our brand new film, we have worked with the Metro to feature five real life stories across the week.

First up is Georgia Pilkington, who is autistic and talks about clearing her head and making sense of the world through rock climbing. She’s taken the time to tell us about her passion and what it’s like to be an autistic 19-year-old.

How did you get into rock climbing?

"I discovered rock climbing when I was seven years old. I instantly fell in love with it and eventually joined a climbing club, then moved to the high performance climbing squad at the Quay Climbing Centre in Exeter."

Why do you enjoy it so much?

"I love rock climbing because it’s so fun and can also be very mindful. I love problem solving and every climb is a different challenge to solve so it never ever gets boring! It helps to take my focus away from all the worries and anxieties I face in my daily struggles."

Are there certain things that trigger your anxiety?

"The main triggers for me are social interaction and sudden changes of plans – I worry I’m saying the wrong thing or that I’m coming across weird. I struggle to process sudden changes in life, which could be anything from becoming ill and falling out of routine or the train getting delayed or breaking down."

Do you think many understand the problems that autistic people face on a daily basis?

"More and more people are becoming familiar with the word autism, but there’s still stigma around what autism is supposed to look like – and if you don’t fit that image, then you surely can’t be autistic. I want to change this perception and increase awareness of what autistic people have to deal with every day."

What are your tips for people who want to support an autistic person who’s experiencing a meltdown?

"My best advice is to be patient – don’t make them feel bad, because they’re struggling and they need compassion and understanding. Help them find a quiet place; their brains have been overloaded with all sorts of feelings and they’re unable to process them as easily as someone else might. Also, give them time to calm down, because feeling under pressure can just prolong the meltdown further."

What do you wish the public understood about autism?

"What I wish the UK public understood is that every autistic person is different and they don’t look autistic. Autistic people do not have ‘a look’. I am a typical teenager into music, bands, sport. I work part time and I’m planning to go to University in September. Just because I achieve these things does not mean they come easy to me.  I have to work ten times harder than neurotypical kids to stay afloat.

"They don’t see me at home when my mask is off and I am crying and overwhelmed with tiredness, confusion, anxiety and frustration.  It will always be like this and will never be different. I won’t be able to cure my autism, only learn to live with this and eventually learn to regulate my energy and sensory levels on a daily basis."  

To learn more about how a sudden change of plan can impact an autistic person like Georgia, watch our new film.

If you want to make a small change in your behaviour that will help reduce the overload for an autistic person, take one of our pledges.

Make a pledge