14th -18th March will be Schools Autism Awareness Week. If you are a teacher, don’t worry as all the work has been done for you. You can download resource packs and a handy guide here. There are resources available to suit all age groups as well, so it doesn’t matter how old pupils are, they can still join in. These packs are also available in Welsh and come with power point presentations already done. All you need to do is have a fun-packed and informative week with the pupils!
Of course, the resources don’t just need to be limited to use in school, so if you work with children and young people in another capacity then you can also access the information and join in. The more awareness raising and information sharing, the better.
This is the first official Schools Autism Awareness Week, so let’s make it a great one, and consider it a warm up for the huge World Autism Awareness Week from 2nd-8th April 2016.
Part of the process of raising awareness involves considering the language we use to talk about autism. Language is so important because the language we use conveys a particular attitude and way of thinking. If you are concerned about the use of particular language in relation to autism why not have a listen to this podcast for some guidance.
Over the years, I have interviewed various children on the autistic spectrum as part of various research projects I have been involved in, I want to share with you a few of their frustrations.
What young people say about being autistic
One young man wanted people to stop “confusing” him by “saying silly rhymes or sayings”. He was able to highlight that he takes things people say literally, so if someone said something would take two seconds he would count “one, two” and expect them to have finished. In reality we know that when we say things like this we don’t really mean that something will take two seconds. Another example he gave was when someone once said to him not to cry over spilt milk. He didn’t understand the saying and was upset because he hadn’t spilt any milk.
Another young person I interviewed told me how she struggled to understand other people’s feelings and to recognise when they were happy or sad unless they actually told her. She also described how it helped her to watch how something was done because if someone just told her how to do something, she wasn’t able to follow that on.
Over the years the main theme of the children and young people I have spoken to has been that they have felt misunderstood. They were tired of being thought of as the naughty children who didn’t listen or the sad ones that didn’t have any friends. They wanted people to spend more time ‘hearing’ what they had to say and they wanted people to be more sensitive to the triggers to their negative behaviour.
Most of all though, they wanted to be treated equally and for everyone to understand that being on the autistic spectrum is not all about deficits. One boy highlighted that for him being autistic was a good thing because he didn’t cheat or lie like other young people he knew.
When asked how they would describe themselves in one word, some of the responses were: cross, bossy, lonely, angry, frightened, and frustrated, although, many just responded with their name or age when asked this question.
What is your experience of working with autistic spectrum disorders?
What can you do to raise awareness and improve the overall understanding of this disability?