Autism Awareness Week

The 27th March to 2nd April is Autism Acceptance Week 🎉

Over the years Autism has had many names from Asperger’s to Kanner’s Syndrome. Autism with profiles such as ‘classic’, ‘PDA’, ‘PDD-NOS’ plus hi and low functioning labels. Although Autism is now officially known, simply as Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) my favourite word for Autism is ‘Takiwatanga’ which beautifully translates in the Māori language as ‘in their own space and time’.

For me, I view autism as a difference. A different way of thinking and a different way of experiencing the world to various degrees and intensity. While Autism can make somethings more difficult it can also offer new prospective and creativity both inside and outside of work.

I’m what some might call a high masking autistic. This means that colleagues don’t always know that I’m autistic and this is the same for many autistic people who each have their own autistic experience. For me, my visual and hearing senses are sensitive but fine tuned. This helps me in visualising playing guitar to unscrambling Rubik’s cubes and problem solving – all skills with transferable qualities.

While there is much to celebrate with neurodiversity we need to remind ourselves that there is much work to do. The last major study jointly carried out by the National Autistic Society and the Office of National Statistics found that 82.5% of working age adults were in paid employment compared to 52.6% of disabled people and just 22% of autistic adults – this is despite an overwhelming majority wanting to work. Barriers include none inclusive work environments, lack of reasonable adjustments, lower pay (disability pay gap at 13.8%) and lack of understanding within society to list but a few.

Things that have helped me since working at NHCT are:

• Joining a union which has empowered me with the confidence to communicate my needs to colleagues

• Getting support & work coaching from Access to Work

• Locating quiet spaces within easy reach in and around our trust

• Connecting with other autistic colleagues in our staff networks

Autism acceptance week is a time to celebrate our differences and recognise the value of including all within society.

I would like to say to all autistic people on world autism awareness day, that the world is more beautiful and rich for your presence. Your drive for fairness and order makes the world more beautiful. Neurodiverse people everywhere: thank you for your innovation, your kindness, your out of the box thinking, your love and your patience, while the world catches up with your brilliant minds!

Written by JAHugill 🙂