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Hot Topic for March 2018 Challenging the Stigma - World Autism Awareness Week

Current Hot Topic for March 2018

Challenging the Stigma - World Autism Awareness Week


Challenging the Stigma - World Autism Awareness Week

Background Story

It’s World Autism Awareness Week 26th March to 2nd April. Around 700,000 people in the UK are on the autism spectrum. Together with their families, this means autism is a part of daily life for 2.8 million people. Autism is a lifelong condition that affects social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour.

Autism is on a spectrum and is often called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC). This means that even though people with ASD have the same type of difficulties some of them are more affected by the level of their difficulties than others. People with autism may also be affected by other conditions as well as ASD.

Watch this short animation clip to gain an understanding of what it’s like living with Autism. This film aims to raise awareness among non-autistic audiences, to stimulate understanding, tolerance and acceptance.

Below is the story of one particular person, Marsha England and her experiences.

“I was diagnosed a month ago with the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). I didn't take it as bad news. It is on the contrary a relief to know there's a name for my peculiarities. I can't count the number of times I thought of myself as an alien from another planet to this world. Finding out at the age of 58 was like finding out the name of the street I had been living on for over five decades.

My suspicions were first raised some time after I started working with special education students in my hometown school district. Many times, I would observe a student's behaviour and I'd be moved to tears. I saw someofmeinhimorher.Iwasdrawnto working in autism units, but I didn't know why until now.

Challenging the Stigma World Autism Awareness Week

A 12-year-old girl was the lighthouse to my arriving at a diagnosis. She is autistic with practically no verbal skills. In class, she frequently talks to herself. It is a language known only to her. She'll sometimes get excited with whatever the story is playing in her mind that she'll holler and/or skip across the room. Watching her took me back 50 years to another girl who did such but just not in the middle of a classroom. She knew she was in a make-believe world of her own making. She wasn't the first student whose behaviour reminded me of my own, but it so closely matched that I was prompted to take action.

I started doing research on the Internet about the autism spectrum. The various autistic online tests had basically the same results -- more likely than not I was living on the spectrum. I got up the courage to see my doctor and confide in him. I also followed up with special education teachers whom I trust about my diagnosis. They were SUPER about it. I am fortunate to have contact with compassionate professionals who have expertise dealing with autistic children on the spectrum. I asked them questions about things I do, or did as a child, if it was typical for autistic individuals or not. I didn't tell them anything that didn't have a familiar ring to it. They could have finished my sentences.”

You can read more about Marsha’s story at

We asked young people with autism “what would make school better?”

58% choose “if teachers understood autism”
37% choose “if other students understood autism”

Risks for Autistic People - Autistic people may be at higher risk of being abused than other people. It can also be more difficult to detect they are being abused. This may be because some autistic people can have limited speech, struggle to communicate and find it difficult to identify their emotions. They may demonstrate that they are being abused by a change in behaviour.

Which of the types of abuse do you think they could be at risk of? If you had a safeguarding concern what procedures should be followed?

Challenging Common Misconceptions - Autistic people see, hear and feel the world differently to other people. If you are autistic, you are autistic for life; autism is not an illness or disease and cannot be 'cured'. Often people feel being autistic is a fundamental aspect of their identity. All autistic people share certain difficulties, but being autistic will affect them in different ways. Some autistic people also have learning disabilities, mental health issues or other conditions, meaning people need different levels of support. All people on the autism spectrum learn and develop.

Four things someone with Autism wants you to know

  1. I am first and foremost a person, Autism is just one aspect of my character.
  2. Ordinary sights, sounds and touches of everyday life that are normal to you can be painful to me.
  3. I like routine because I know what to expect.
  4. Focus on what I can do, rather than what I can’t.

What is meant by the term ‘spectrum condition’?

Safety Concerns for People on the Autism Spectrum - All parents have safety concerns when it comes to their children. But children on the autism spectrum are at a higher risk of being hurt, victimised or wandering off, to name a few worries that are high on the list of parental concerns. Children with autism do not appear to have a safety 'antenna' built in, and their sensory processing does not effectively work to help them. Many adults with autism (including Asperger's Syndrome) remember putting themselves in unsafe situations due to sensory processing challenges. These challenges prevented them from feeling when something was too hot or too cold, an object was very sharp, or from "seeing" that it was too far to jump from the top of an object to the ground below. Neurodiversity in the workplace can be a gift. Yet only 15% of adults with an autism spectrum condition (ASC) are in full-time employment.

Imagine you were working with a colleague who was on the autistic spectrum, how could you identify how to best support them? What would your employer be responsible for carrying out? What reasonable adjustments might be made?

Mental Capacity Act - The Mental Capacity Act provide a statutory framework to empower and protect vulnerable people who need support or are not able to make or communicate their own decisions. It ensures people are looked after in a way that does not inappropriately restrict their freedom. It makes it clear who can take decisions, in which situations, and how they should go about this.

Why is it important to have legislation and guidelines to follow regarding this? What other health conditions do you think this legislation could apply to?

European Union Social Fund
Skills Funding Agency
Matrix Accreditation
City and Guilds
Edexcel Pearson

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