A schoolgirl has told her classmates that she is autistic for the first time in the most incredible way.
Holly, 12, had never revealed to her school friends that she suffers from symptoms of autism, despite finding certain situations difficult to deal with, especially being asked too many questions.
However, to mark World Autism Awareness Week, the youngster became the star of The National Autistic Society’s latest campaign, which highlights how difficult those with autism can find being presented with a lot of information at once.
Craig Hickey Photography
The short film follows Holly’s character on a trip to go ice skating, focusing in on the many people she meets and conversations she has on the way. The video shows how members of the public, from a young man on a motorbike who almost bumps into her to a woman walking her dog, confront her with questions which she finds hard to answer.
Stats from the charity show that 77% of autistic people think the public don’t understand their need for more time to process information, which according to 82% of autistic people can make them feel anxious, with nearly 50% saying this could lead to a ‘meltdown’.
The campaign therefore aims to raise awareness of the fact that someone with autism might need time to answer even a simple enquiry such as ‘Going anywhere fun today?’.
As well as conveying an important message, the video has given Holly the chance to tell her school about her experience autism, and advise her peers on how to help those with the condition, in a unique way.
Holly bravely led a powerful assembly to her year group this week, showing the first screening of the film and using the platform to talk to her classmates about her autism for the first time.
Craig Hickey Photography
The Year 7 student has said she hopes this will help her classmates understand more about autism, in particular how autistic people sometimes need extra time to process information.
As an aspiring actress Holly feels passionate about portraying this important message through film, saying: ‘I love acting and want to be involved in musical theatre when I grow up. So it means a lot to be involved in the National Autistic Society’s film.’
‘Sometimes I get really upset that people do not understand autism. But I hope this campaign will help improve understanding and make other people who are autistic feel more accepted.’
‘If just one person sees the film and is more understanding to autistic people, I’ll be happy.’
The inspirational pre-teen is also encouraging people to get involved in the National Autistic Society’s Too Much Information campaign and to think about the small things they can do to make the world a more autism friendly place – whether in the classroom, at work or at the shops.
Holly’s mum, Jo, added how proud she is of her daughter, as well as giving some insight into how Holly has tried to cope with social situations in the past.
‘We’re all so proud of Holly. Lots of 12-year-olds would be daunted by acting in a big film like this and speaking in front of her whole year group but Holly’s autism means she doesn’t get embarrassed as easily. She’s so passionate about acting and raising awareness of autism and loved every minute of filming.’
‘She’s come such a long way since her diagnosis five years ago. I feel like her autism could have been picked up earlier but, like many girls on the spectrum, she’s really good at masking her difficulties. For instance, copying the behaviour and reactions of children around her.’