For most people, having a simple chat is effortless and enjoyable – but for Andrew Hughes, 24, it’s not easy at all. Andrew, from Carlisle in Cumbria has autism, which for him means he can struggle with social interaction and communication.
These very problems make it difficult for him to describe his condition easily. Yet he's determined to raise awareness and help others understand what life is like with the condition.
So he's made a short film with the help of Fixers, the charity which helps young people to campaign on issues which matter to them. Here, Andrew introduces his film:
‘I was diagnosed in March 2015. My doctor put me forward for assessment after I went through a bad patch. I was worrying and upset nearly every single minute.
The diagnosis came as a bit of a shock but everything started to make sense at the same time. I was sort of relieved - I knew that there was something 'wrong' with me but I didn't know what it was.
I shared a video on Facebook telling my friends and family. It made sense to just tell everyone all at once. I got a lot of positive responses. People saying I had guts to tell everyone, and that they were all behind me.
There are a lot of stereotypes of autism and it’s not always as severe as you see on TV. Everyone is different. For me it’s a communication difficulty. I don’t have a learning difficulty. My brain is just wired a little differently.
I find a lot of things difficult - doing anything new, speaking on the telephone, or holding conversations with people - even the people I know. Younger people don't understand, when I was at school people bullied me, and made nasty comments. Adults are more understanding.
My Fixers project is aimed at people aged eight to 18, I hope it helps them to understand autism, so they are less likely to bully other people who have autism.
I have been in a relationship for six months now, my girlfriend Becky is 21 and we're happy. I have good hopes for the future. I hope to be happy with my life, and maybe find a job in mathematics.
I’m very happy with my video, I think it gets the message across. The best thing you can do is be aware and be supportive. We are all different, we’re not the same - and that’s OK.’
You can watch my film here: https://youtu.be/t8HuW5cDO4c