Six days into this year’s Autism Awareness month and I feel like people all over the world are doing a lot to raise awareness for ASD. I have been particularly impressed with people in Twitter who continually share their stories (see Aspienaut, for example). I have also received messages and emails from people who want to know more about Autism- which is pleasantly surprising since this is my first time to be actively involved in World Autism Awareness.
Nevertheless, colleagues, friends and others still ask me why we need to spread autism awareness. They mentioned that autism is already widely known, as people can easily identify TV/ film characters as having Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, from Rain Man to The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper. I pointed out that a quick internet search would reveal that there are still a lot of people who do not know much (or anything at all) about autism.
These searches reflect people’s ignorance about the condition and could lead to hate, prejudice and discrimination against individuals with autism.
There’s no denying that most of these search suggestions are negative and hateful (to say the least). These search terms mean that there are a lot of people who key-in the same terms, which may then reflect the attitudes of these people towards individuals with autism. It is however, welcoming to see that there are people who are willing to explain what autism is, despite negative questions:
What can we do?
Inclusive schools around the world provide young ones with the opportunity to interact with pupils with Autism and other Special Educational Needs. This can help others- including the schools’ staff, to know what Autism is and its many different manifestations. This of course depends on how many pupils with Autism one school has on its register.
Schools should explain to their students what Autism (and other SEN) are, and how best to interact with them. Quite a lot of schools do not explicitly teach children about the different disorders and conditions, despite having a relatively good inclusion practice. I believe that explicit teaching would help children work harmoniously with each other.
Despite the Equality Act of 2010 which aims to protect workers with psychological conditions, there is still a lot of stigma around. It is important for workplaces to have an effective policy regarding mental health. It is most important to make them feel that they belong to the workplace. Give them space when they need it, and give them the appropriate help when they need it.
People with Autism want and deserve to be accepted.