Autism Awareness Week 2020 30th March – 4th April
It is Autism Awareness Week so with the help of Bristol Autism Network I want to share some small easy things we can all think about and do to make life more inclusive for people on the autistic spectrum.
I appreciate that life is very different while we are all social distancing, however it is the perfect time to look at what matters in life. Obviously the current coronavirus situation is awful but staying home away from people is pretty normal for many SEND families.
I avoid many social situations because I hate the constant questions, inappropriate comments and the looks given to my two autistic kids. Even family, friends and autism professionals make these comments. I even find myself doing it sometimes. We seem to be programmed to take offence and be scared of difference. This is truly heart-breaking for me as a parent of two amazing children who are different.
Small things add up to make a big difference
I know many autistic kids who are flourishing now the pressure of school and life outside home has been taken away. There are others who are really struggling without their routine and usual activities outside the home. Autism is different for everyone and as such there are no universal needs that can be taken into account. There are however lots of small things you can be aware of that do make a difference for many people on the spectrum.
Bristol Autism Network is a peer to peer support network for families in the West of England with autistic children. I asked members to share:
‘What small change can people make to be more inclusive of those on the autistic spectrum?’
Here are their suggestions:
Just being aware of noise levels would really help. Keep music to a reasonable level, avoid unnecessary tannoy announcements etc.
Signs in public toilets with hand dryers saying something along the lines of ‘before you dry, check if any small people are ok with the noise’ It would raise awareness and help children who are frightened. Toileting is such a big issue and this could be really helpful to reduce anxiety.
If you see a family with a child having a meltdown in public, please be kind, don’t judge or comment negatively and perhaps ask if you can do something to help. Whilst they may not always be autism related, our community would gain better understanding if people didn’t judge these behaviours in a negative light.
Stop judging. Stop assuming you can see the whole picture.
Out & About
Use more visuals: shops and restaurants can have picture menus or boards to assist with purchases. Towns can have more visuals on signs. Businesses can share visual guides on their websites. Allowing people with communication difficulties to be included.
I love that cinemas, bowling and other venues hold quiet hour or inclusion sessions but I would like to add something along the lines of inclusion times being a little more convenient to parents / carers that work as I see the inclusion times just the businesses quiet times. But I can’t knock them for trying.
Please can we have an option NOT to exit through the shop!
A clearly sign posted calm area for kids to go when they are overwhelmed in places such as the zoo, soft play etc. And a couple of sets of ear defenders available too.
Stop thinking of the spectrum as a line and making assumptions about capabilities and difficulties based on that view.
I’d like to add that autism isn’t all negative! Autistic children can be very loving and full of joy!
Lack of empathy socially appropriately expressed does not mean a lack of empathy. Sometimes it is a sign of overwhelming empathy.
Acceptance, not just awareness is key for me: Autism isn’t an illness. Do not support autism speaks. Autistic children become autistic adults. Just Be Kind. Learn from autistics
I think the fact that autistic children become autistic adults is something that really needs to be made more of. It’s not like you grow out of autism (though maybe some of the more obvious behaviours) and so accommodations need to be made for everyone. Also, some accommodations – like allowing pre-booking so you don’t have to queue for stuff – helps everyone.
Don’t assume all autistic people are the same. A spectrum does not mean a 2D line.
Autistic fatigue is very real and that pacing is required to ensure they don’t crash. It’s not that they are being lazy of not committed. It’s that they don’t always have the capacity to do a full day. Especially if things don’t go well say on the way in (bus late, fails to turn up, too noisy) which means the autistic person has used up their ‘spoons’ for the day.
Better understanding in the workplace and more supported employment opportunities / alternative routes into work for autistic adults.
I hope you have found this useful, do you have something to add? Comments below:
This is really helpful thank you. I am a naturally loud person so I think I need to be more aware of my volume when I’m around others. My niece is autistic, she is none verbal but she communicates in so many other ways and doesn’t struggle to get her needs across at all. You’re so right that the way we approach autism as a society needs to change. Thank you for sharing such great information #KCACOLS
I think we can all make little changes but the best one is always being aware of people who are around us. My non verbal son is the same he has no problem letting us know what his needs are.
I found this really helpful. Just before the world went a little crazy we were just going down the ASD assessment route with my son. It was a difficult time anyway and now with meetings and help postponed and no school it is a very challenging time. We are trying to stick to a new routine but he is very emotional. And angry I am so grateful for all the information online and lovely families happy to share stories so it feels a bit less lonely. Stay safe #KCACOLS
The assessment is a tough process and not a great time to have support pulled. The best help for me has always been other parents and there are tons of us online which as you say makes it all a little less lonely. Xx
I seem to have missed something. What is wrong with Austism Speaks? (I’d never heard of them and had to google. Not arguing with you, asking as I’m curious – incase tone implies otherwise, or lack of tone…) #KCACOLS
From what I understand they don’t often work with people on the spectrum. Plus much of their content that I have seen focuses on trying to change or cure autism which doesn’t sit well with me. There has been questions over how much of their funding actually supports the autistic community. I am less aware of the organisation in the UK but certainly understand this to be the case in the US.
This is really helpful. I’ve always thought there should be more visuals around the place. It would be handy for so many people, not only those who are autistic. When I made the signs for school xmas after I insisted they have symbols on as well as words x
Great for people who English isn’t first language too. It should be more common
The comment about fatigue and spoons really resonate with me! It applies both to my (autistic) son and to myself, although I’m not diagnosed with anything. I ended up with serious burnout a few years ago, after trying to do too much for too long, and since then my capacity has remained much lower than it used to be. As the autistic brain seems to work harder almost all the time, at processing sensory input, interpreting social cues etc, I think it’s really important to give generous amounts of downtime, and minimise ‘the noise’ (not just actual noise, but all kinds of added input, which can be so draining) xx
Thanks. I have certainly be hearing more about autistic burnout recently. Really interesting and makes a lot of sense when you think about all that additional sensory input. We make sure there is lots of downtime for my kids but it’s god to understand how important it is
These are all great tips. Acceptance is definitely key. And I would appreciate the drying sign in toilets too, as my 4yo hates hand dryers right now! #KCACOLS
I think most small kids are scared of the dryers. They do make quieter ones now so hopefully over time they will get better
As a mom with a sin n the spectrum who is nonverbal and severely autistic, I agree with ALL these tips… Thanks for sharing.
Glad to hear that, I ageee and I think they are such easy things to do
Patience is always top of my list. So much can be helped by waiting and being patient. Thanks for the great post and linking to #spectrumsunday
I totally agree. I am not naturally a patient person so have had to adapt with this but it really does make so much difference