An Autistic Affair: Pride or Prejudice?

Why we all can become Autistic allies

Living with an Autism Spectrum disorder comes with many positives. The ability to process information in a sensory-heightened fashion. A perspective of the world that is extremely vibrant. Possessing a creative mind that has the capacity to think outside the norms. But it also has its negatives: struggling to adapt to ever-evolving environments, confusion surrounding over-sensitivity to stimulus and the ability to use standard methods of communication to express emotion.

Although having Autism can be a wonderful thing there’s still much inequality and many problems that Autistic community faces, from those who have also fallen through the gaps of misdiagnosis, to those misunderstood by neurotypical minds.

So what are some of the issues the Autistic Community is still facing?

  • Awareness and Education: 60% of teachers in England do not feel they have had adequate training to teach children with autism
  • Fewer than one in four school leavers with autism stay in further or higher education
  • Only 16% of autistic adults are in full-time paid employment 
  • Many of those on the Autistic Spectrum feel unvalued, unconfident in their abilities and unsure of how to adequately manage their emotions
  • One in three autistic adults “are experiencing severe mental health difficulties due to a lack
    of support” 

(Data courtesy of www.ambitiousaboutautism.org.uk/stats-and-facts\)

So what can be done to reduce prejudice, raise up the pride and support Autistic individuals to thrive?

Awareness: Creating awareness doesn’t have to mean wearing a badge saying “I am Autistic”, or “Autistic Ally”. Also, instilling awareness doesn’t have to mean attending every conference (even the ones in shady offices with half stained coffee mugs) on the Disorder to feel like an ‘awareness hero’. Reshaping the way we talk about Autism is one of the most helpful ways to raise awareness. Instead of seeing this disorder as an illness or as a disease, we should strive to view Autism and Autistic people as a community of neurodivergent minds just trying to live ‘the best we can’.

Accessibility: The availability of services that are tailor made to support those on the Spectrum needs to be adjusted to assist Autistic individuals with living the most productive and fulfilling lives as possible. Services and schemes such as coloured lanyards for hidden disabilities around stations, airports, buses etc. (I’ll be touching on this in another blog post), Autism-Friendly cafes, restaurants and eateries, cinema screenings and relaxed shopping hours can all be utilised and tailored and more accessible to help those on the spectrum. It can make ‘normal’, everyday tasks and activities seem more manageable, and enjoyable for the person with a diagnosis of Autism.

Education: Education about Autism Spectrum Disorders should be implemented from an early age right up to senior citizens. We teach children about people with disabilities who are in wheelchairs, or deaf, or blind and how to spot and support them where appropriate, so why not teach them about the less visible disabilities of Autism and mental health? Resources should be widely available within all educational settings and within the community such as schools, youth clubs, libraries, workplaces etc. We all can be better educated about Autism to make sure everybody can thrive.

Transitions: For an individual who is on the Autism Spectrum transitions can be difficult. A person with Autism can often feel overwhelmed due to sudden changes such as moving from adolescent to adult mental health and learning disability targeted support services, relocating to a new house, and anything and everything in between. Change is hard for most neurotypical society, and we each react in different aways, however for someone with Autism change and a disruption to routine can bring on a downward spiral of confusion, poor self-confidence in their abilities and sometimes, feeling inadequate of suffering from severe anxiety due to in actions and dynamics. Sometimes, though, we can’t help change from occurring, but we can make informed attempts to make transitions smooth for those on the Autism Spectrum. By creating an environment where open questions from the Autistic individual are encouraged not discouraged, explaining the course of action and the reasons why (where appropriate) the changes are happening, and supporting them through the whole process; including post-transition.

Employability: Finding paid, long-term employment can be difficult at the best of times for neurotypical minds but for someone who has Autism it can especially challenging. Employers, businesses and companies whom are not Autism aware are more likely to reject candidates on the spectrum because they do not know how to ‘manage’ with an Autistic member of staff. If given the chance, many Autistic people are successfully integrated and introduced into the workplace through a variety of paths including work experience, taster days, paid part-time and (eventually) resulting in full-time positions. Individuals with Neurodivergent minds have always been willing to learn, adapt and overcome barriers (and stigmas and stereotypes) within the world of work, if given equal opportunities to thrive.

No matter how big or small our actions, we can all take steps to make this world a better place for everyone.

So, what can YOU do to support those on the Autistic Spectrum?

Let’s make it happen, one step at a time.

For more information about Autism, check out Episode 2 of my Podcast: The Spectrum Series

Claudia

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