To help you take a break from the continuous stream of bad or alarming news on TV and social media we have collected here a couple of news articles from 2019 proving that the world is becoming a better place for people on the autism spectrum. We are acutely aware of the difficulties autistic people face due to underfunding and discrimination every day but there is good news too. An increasing demand for autistic employees on the job market and better representation of autistic characters in the media are important signs of a growing understanding and acceptance of neurodiversity in the world.
More and more research and evidence highlight the special skills and abilities autistic people can offer in the workplace. In a recent article Simon Baron-Cohen, Director of the Autism Research Centre of the University of Cambridge, predicts an increase of companies seeking autistic employees because they recognise the untapped potential and the values of a neurodiverse workforce. Many autistic people have remarkable attention to detail, a skill-based on excellent pattern recognition. This, in turn, appears to stem from systemising, an evolved function in the human brain that helps us understand how things work by analysing a system in terms of its underlying rules. This important skill has a number of benefits in the workplace. Autistic peoples’ excellent attention to detail means they may make fewer mistakes, and their narrow focus may mean that they are not satisfied until a task is completed. The high levels of honesty and loyalty that are closely associated with autism are obviously desirable qualities, too. Many companies have been changing their recruitment and interview processes to meet the needs of autistic applicants and we hope the trend will continue in the future. Read the article here.
As of February, we will be working more with autistic people too, as our new warehouse and logistics supplier is a social enterprise employing and empowering autistic people. We look forward to this new partnership and are hoping to see more organisations embracing neurodiversity at a corporate level.
The other interesting phenomenon of the year was the surge of autistic characters in TV programs, and we are very happy to see the increase in the number of autistic actors and actresses on the small screen as well. If you haven’t seen the A Word on BBC make sure to free up a few evenings to binge-watch it. It stars Travis Smith, whose splendid acting talents make the series a must-watch for everyone. Travis is also an excellent singer and born entertainer who is not letting his autism diagnosis limit him in any way. On Cbeebies Pablo is empowering young people on the autism spectrum to tell their own stories and perform them. Every episode of the show is grounded in real-life experiences of autistic children, bringing their ideas and perspectives to life in an honest and humorous way. And then there is Atypical on Netflix, controversial, as many American sitcoms, but an undeniably fun show championing the strengths of autistic young people in a humorous way. Even Sesame Street has an autistic character now, Julia, a little girl with sensory difficulties and problems understanding the laws of social interaction, but who is also full of joy, song, and creativity. The list goes on, including the hugely popular The Good Doctor and even Eastenders, where we can follow the Carter family’s autism diagnosis journey. We look forward to seeing even more programs raising awareness and championing autistic characters in the new year.
One of our own good news of 2019 is that the number of our partners has been steadily increasing and we are now active in 73 local authorities (although AET training can be accessed in many more local authorities). The latest additions to the AET community are: West Sussex and Kent (Post 16), Merton (Early Years and Schools), Croydon (Early Years) and Norfolk (Early Years and Schools), Lincolnshire, Leicester City and Dudley. Demand for AET training continues to be high as more and more local authorities and education settings recognise the benefits and the importance of giving teachers and education professionals the knowledge and tools to support the growing number of autistic children and young people in their settings.
We are always happy to hear about the successes of our partners and are proud to report that Greenbank School (our training partner in Cheshire West and Chester local authority in partnership with Hinderton and Rosebank Schools) was awarded a Social Responsibility Award by the Division of Nursing Midwifery and Social Work. Greenbank School is it a mainstream secondary school with a great reputation for inclusion. The award recognised the work and stunning results the school and Mrs Langford, the Deputy Head of the school, achieved with the AET Making Sense of Autism course. The training module was delivered to student nurses at the University of Manchester in preparation for an aspirational visit from students of the Greenbank School in order to ensure that the needs of all students were met . As a result, the student nurses were able to understand how those with learning disabilities and autism may experience different sensations, have different methods of communication and can perceive the world differently and managed to support all the students on their visit. They were able to recall their learning months after the event and have gone on to use their new understanding to produce visual communication materials for the clinical environment. These are presently being used for groups with learning disabilities, as well as those who are confused, such as dementia patients.
If you would like to know more about our training and resources or if you are interested in partnership opportunities, please visit Become an AET Partner or the AET Training Programme or contact the AET helpdesk.