This past Sunday marked the 16th annual World Autism Awareness Day, which was first honoured back in 2008 to bring wider awareness of autism.
Awareness and understanding are critical to effective communications. At Cratus, we tailor our approach, especially when engaging with communities, to make sure we have considered individual needs and that our engagement is inclusive and accessible.
Autism is a lifelong developmental condition, affecting more than 1 in 100 people in how they communicate and interact with the world. World Autism Awareness Day seeks to educate, increase funding for research, celebrate differences, and to make the world a more inclusive space. While many people have heard of autism, it is still stigmatised, people are misinformed and women are still largely under-diagnosed.
Autism is a spectrum condition, so while there are some common shared experiences, it affects everyone individually. Some of the challenges that people with autism can face include finding it difficult to interpret verbal and non-verbal language, as well as struggling to read people’s emotions and express their own. People with autism can also face sensory differences where they experience an over- or under-sensitivity to sounds, touch, smells, light and more.
The National Autistic Society’s website has further information on the challenges and difficulties that autistic people can face.
Alongside experiencing some of these challenges, autistic people can be greatly skilled in their special interests or chosen field, sometimes becoming experts. This comes from being highly focused which means that they can perform well academically and in the workplace, as well as being detail oriented and thinking about the world in a visual way. We see this strength with individuals such as environmental activist Greta Thunberg who has spoken about having Asperger Syndrome which is on the autism spectrum. She stated in a tweet “I have Aspergers and that means I’m sometimes a bit different from the norm. And – given the right circumstances – being different is a superpower.”
Charities and societies working to bring further awareness to autism have also highlighted how it is important for employers to regularly review their current recruitment processes as they often create barriers for those on the spectrum. The National Autistic Society has published a guide for employers, highlighting how adjustments to job descriptions, application forms and job adverts will make the employment process more inclusive and stress-free for autistic people. Greater awareness of different sensory experiences can ensure sensory-friendly environments for everyone, including respect for individual preferences or boundaries when it comes to things such as personal space.
While April 2nd has been an important day for increasing the awareness of autism, practising support and understanding should be part of our day to day lives with everyone we come across. Being open-minded and empathetic with everyone we encounter helps to create a more inclusive space for people across the entire spectrum.
To learn more about Cratus’s tailored approach to community engagement, how we consider individual needs and how to make your engagement inclusive and accessible, please get in touch with Morven.