Autism Acceptance Week 2023

Autism Acceptance Week: Be part of the change

Categorised in: Insights | Posted on: 27 March 2023

It’s Autism Acceptance Week (27 March – 2 April 2023). Let’s shine a light on ways we can change the outcomes for children on the autistic spectrum.

According to The National Autistic Society, there are around 700,000 autistic people in the UK. Yet millions of people in the UK are unfamiliar with what life looks like for adults and children with Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC).

This lack of understanding often leads to negative perceptions of autism and often results in poor outcomes for the children (and adults) concerned. This may include feelings of loneliness, depression, anxiety and sadly, many more negative repercussions. In fact, the stark reality is that autistic children are three times more likely to be excluded from school; and over one third of autistic people have serious mental health problems. As it’s Autism Acceptance Week, let’s take a look at the ways we can support children on the autistic spectrum:

What is autism?

Autism is defined as a lifelong developmental neurodivergence, which affects how people communicate and interact with the world. It describes a range of characteristics that include a triad of impairments involving social skills, communication and behaviour. Click here for a brilliant 3-minute video on ‘What is Autism?’

Knowledge is power

Whilst the above video gives us a glimpse at what it is like to be autistic; as an educator, carer, parent, co-worker, friend or boss; we can help make the world a little more autism friendly. We can change the lives of the autistic people we know by taking the time to understand autism in greater detail. There are now some brilliant (and FREE!) training courses that explore theories, diagnosis, investigate communication, interaction, behaviour, as well as how you can help support healthy and fulfilled lives. Having just completed this Level 2 course in ‘Understanding Autism’, I cannot recommend it highly enough: ‘Autism Awareness Training Course’.

Autism Acceptance Week

Words and definitions matter

This week I read a wonderful post by Nadia Di Viono on the ‘Neurodiversity in Business’ LinkedIn page that really resonated. She said that autistic individuals are not disabled, it is in fact, society that is disabling. This is true in so many instances, particularly in how we define any social, communication or learning difference. Words hold so much power and can be incredibly negative, even daunting; especially for parents hearing these words for the first time in a school setting.

The deficit model of identification and diagnosis within Special Educational Needs, unfortunately, focuses our attention on the negative. The impact of language such as the prefix, “dys” for specific learning differences such as ‘Dyslexia’ and ‘Dyscalculia’ or the words “Deficit” and “Disorder” is significant. It affects societal perceptions and more importantly the child’s self-perception as well as their self-esteem. Imagine how empowering (and less frightening) these terms would be if redefined as Nadia suggests:

It’s not a Deficit, it’s a Definition.
It’s not a Disorder, it’s a Distinction.
It’s not a Diagnosis, it’s an Identification.

So let’s not underestimate how powerful our choice of words is and choose them wisely. Especially when explaining to our children about their own needs, learning differences, unique strengths, and talents.

Why diagnosis is beneficial

Many individuals who go through life undiagnosed experience anxiety and struggle with their mental health due to feeling misunderstood and also not understanding themselves. A diagnosis gives clarity, understanding and acceptance of oneself. Early diagnosis for children is key to:

– Receiving appropriate support with learning, mental health and their overall self confidence
– Allowing the rest of the family to have an understanding of what the child is experiencing and thus enabling better support and responses
– Helping parents, carers and educators to cope, learn more about the condition and know how to seek specialist support and advice from professionals

Click here for information on how to seek a diagnosis

Autism Awareness

Autism and girls

Autistic characteristics in women and girls may differ from those of other autistic people. Women and girls may appear to have fewer social difficulties than autistic men and boys. But appearances can be deceptive! This could be because they are more likely to ‘mask’ their autistic traits and the stress of doing so can result in extreme anxiety, exhaustion and overwhelm. For further insight, click here: Autism and girls. And if you know a young autistic female, I highly recommend the books by Sienna Castellon, who founded Neurodiversity Celebration Week, especially, ‘The Spectrum Girl’s Survival Guide‘.

Support is out there

There are many wonderful support networks and websites to support families. The National Autistic Society is a fantastic source of information. I also include some useful links below.

Sites to explore during Autism Acceptance Week:

What is Autism?

Advice and Guidance for Teachers

Homework: A Guide for Parents and Carers

Bullying: Kidscape Guide to Support Autistic Children

Exams: A Guide for Parents

Post Diagnosis Support: A Guide for Parents

Top 5 Tips for Managing Sensory Differences

Top 5 Tips for Inclusion in Education

5 Top Tips for Supporting Pre-School Children

Sarah Cox, SEN Consultant & Head of Learning Support for Hampton Pre-Prep School

The Tutors Association The Tutors Association The Good School Guide Tooled up