Page last updated at 09:07 GMT, Monday, 30 March 2009 10:07 UK

Cause celeb: Keith Duffy on autism


Keith Duffy on autism: "sometimes you are in denial"

High profile names can help raise awareness of a disease or condition, and bring it under the spotlight.

This video series talks to those in the public eye about their personal reasons for speaking out.

Boyzone star and Coronation Street actor Keith Duffy talks about the ups and downs of bringing up a child with autism.

His daughter, Mia, was diagnosed with the condition at eighteen months.

Mia is now 9 and has integrated into mainstream school. This was achieved through Applied Behavioural Analysis, a specialised individualised program in which major goals are broken down into smaller achievable ones.

Over the years Keith has worked tirelessly in raising awareness and funding for autism charities.

This year he is running the London Marathon to raise money for the National Autistic Society and Special Provision for the Education of Autistic Children (SPEAC).

On 2 April autism organisations across the world are coming together to mark World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) as declared by the United Nations.

What is autism?

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability.

More about autism
40% of all children with autism wait more than three years for a clear diagnosis
Boys are 4 times more likely to develop autism than girls
Only 15% of adults with autism in England are in full-paid employment.

While all people with autism share three main areas of difficulty, their condition will affect them in very different ways. Some are able to live relatively 'everyday' lives while others will require a lifetime of specialist support.

The three main areas of difficulty which all people with autism share are:

• Difficulty with social communication

People with autism have difficulties with both verbal and non-verbal language. Many have a very literal understanding of language, and think people always mean exactly what they say.

• Difficulty with social interaction

People with autism often have difficulty recognising or understanding other people's emotions and feelings, and expressing their own, which can make it more difficult for them to fit in socially.

• Difficulty with social imagination

Social imagination allows us to understand and predict other people's behaviour, make sense of abstract ideas, and to imagine situations outside our immediate daily routine. Difficulties with social imagination mean that people with autism find it hard to understand and interpret other people's thoughts, feelings and actions, and predict what will happen next.

Interventions and therapies

There is currently no 'cure' for autism, but there are a range of interventions which may help some people with this complex condition.

Autism affects everyone differently, so what works for one person may not work for another.

The nature of interventions for autism vary greatly - they range from communication based approaches that build on the strengths of the person with autism, to more traditional behavioural techniques designed to teach basic learning skills.

They may also include specific diets, supplements and medications.

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