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Living on the Spectrum: World Autism Month



Photograph: Pexels

Text: Michaela Medveďová / Anna Pawlowicz


The 2nd of April was World Autism Day, which marked the beginning of World Autism Month, during which we raised awareness about Autism and the contribution autistic individuals bring to the diversity of life.


At The International, we join the celebrations and share practical insights and information about helpful organisations if you or anyone in your circle is diagnosed with Autism in Denmark.


What is Autism?

According to the Danish Association for Autism, Autism is a hereditary difference in brain development that affects the perception of the environment and the way one interacts with others.


Being a neurodiverse condition, Autism causes a different way of understanding and navigating the world. It’s often referred to as ‘the spectrum’, implying a variety of symptoms. For some individuals, it may affect social interactions or communication. For others, it may cause sensory or behavioural challenges.


Autism in children

Mashal Yousuf, founder of Copenhagen-based Lille Blossoms, works with parents of autistic children. In her experience, autism symptoms can manifest in children as early as 18 months old. Core symptoms can vary widely between children, but some of the most common distinguishers are:

  • Social interactions, like difficulty maintaining eye contact or challenges in making

  • friends

  • Repetitive behaviour, like hand flapping, rocking or repeating the same line from a

  • cartoon

  • Sensory overstimulation, caused by bright lights or loud noises


According to Mashal, Autism can look different in boys and girls. Although the condition is considered most common in boys, the reality is different. Boys are diagnosed more commonly than girls because girls are more likely to mask (or internalise) their symptoms by following social norms and hiding the difficulties they may be experiencing. Therefore, it’s important to remember that early diagnosis and intervention are something all children deserve equally.


If you suspect your child may be on the spectrum, Mashal’s advice is not to panic. She says: ‘Autism is a new concept for a lot of parents, but there are many resources and people to support you.’ Mashal recommends consulting your family doctor and discussing your suspicions with your child’s teachers. Your doctor may refer your child for a comprehensive assessment from a psychiatrist, who can give a formal diagnosis.


Mashal strongly believes parents play a crucial role in advocating for their children and creating opportunities for them to access support services as quickly as possible, such as behavioural, speech and occupational therapy. According to Mashal, ‘Autism is now widely known, and there is an array of services your child can receive. Additionally, you as a parent receive support referred to as psychoeducation, where you’re taught about Autism from a caregiver perspective.’


Lille Blossoms can coach parents of newly diagnosed children, help navigate individualised educational plans and support your child with behavioural and emotional regulation.


"Mashal strongly believes parents play a crucial role in advocating for their children and creating opportunities for them to access support services as quickly as possible, such as behavioural, speech and occupational therapy."

Autism in adults

Being on the spectrum as an adult comes with numerous challenges. To illustrate the support available for autistic adults in Denmark, we spoke with Carsten Lassen, CEO of Specialisterne, a socially innovative company creating meaningful job opportunities for people with Autism and other neurodiverse conditions.


Carsten explains that the main difficulty for autistic adults is adapting to the labour market, which is designed for the neurotypical community. ‘For an autistic individual, the challenge doesn’t concern the skills required for the job, but the social aspects of searching for employment, succeeding in interviews, getting the job, and then keeping it.’


Specialisterne has helped over 500 autistic individuals find employment across Denmark. Carsten explains: ‘At Specialisterne, we reach out to neurodiverse talent and look at opportunities to support them in their career aspirations. We then interact with companies wanting to be inclusive workplaces and facilitate matchmaking between the organisations looking for talent and the skills available within our neurodiverse community.’


Aside from supporting adults with Autism to find employment, Specialisterne provides coaching for newly diagnosed adults to help them understand their diagnosis better. The company also runs a school for autistic young adults, providing life skills and education to assist them in entering the labour market.


Carsten believes that regardless of the diagnosis, most adults want to participate in society. Finding employment is a key step towards a meaningful and independent life, and Specialisterne’s role is to support the autistic community in precisely that.


You can contact Lille Blossoms (lilleblossoms@outlook.com) and Specialisterne (kontakt@specialisterne.com) if you or someone you know could benefit from their expertise.

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