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WORLD AUTISM AWARENESS DAY

By Rebecca Williams, Anti-Bullying Training Coordinator

On World Autism Awareness Day, we’re sharing our conversation with Diana Award recipient Chelsea on why it’s important for charities and organisations to provide opportunities for young people with ASD.

2 April 2020

Here at The Diana Award, our Anti-Bullying programme is on a mission to engage young people to change the attitudes, behaviours and culture of bullying by building skills and confidence to address different situations, both online and offline.

We asked Diana Award recipient Chelsea Smith what World Autism Awareness Day meant to her and why it is important. She said: “World Autism Awareness Day means that people can understand my condition, learn about it and become more aware. It is important to me as it helps people become aware of the condition and lets autistic people break down boundaries with others who may not have otherwise understood ASD.”

Chelsea received her award for her work within ASD.

Chelsea received her award for her work within ASD. As a young person with a diagnosis of ASD, Chelsea decided that more needed to be done to support those with this hidden disability, particularly young girls. She initiated, designed and implemented a sensory sanctuary room within her school to support other students with ASD, improving their mental health and wellbeing. Chelsea’s ideas and insight also reshaped the local Girls and Autism Friendship Club, providing girls with autism in the community a place to socialise in a supportive environment. Chelsea gives them the confidence to discuss their diagnosis and demonstrates that ASD is not a barrier to them achieving their goals.

Autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people and how they experience the world around them (as defined by The National Autistic Society). It is a spectrum disorder which means that individuals with autism share similar difficulties but it can affect individuals in different ways.

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people and how they experience the world around them.

Chelsea shared with us her personal experience of ASD saying “I find that most people don’t really understand my disability and  I find it hard to socialise which can make me feel very lonely. Having ASD means sometimes I can’t cope with change and I have to stick to a routine in school; time is very important as I do not like to be late. If I am going to be late, my high anxiety kicks in.”

The National Autistic Society (2020) suggests ASD people can be at higher risk of bullying behaviour because of the differences in thought processes and social interactions. Due to ASD, these young people can struggle to recognise other’s facial expressions and body language which means they can find it difficult determining friend from foe (The National Autistic Society, 2020).

“I find that most people don’t really understand my disability and  I find it hard to socialise which can make me feel very lonely. Having ASD means sometimes I can’t cope with change and I have to stick to a routine in school; time is very important as I do not like to be late. If I am going to be late, my high anxiety kicks in.”

Our Anti-Bullying Ambassador training brings together a wide variety of young people from different backgrounds and locations. During the training, we promote a supportive environment for those with ASD to get involved by celebrating differences in all young people and encouraging everyone to embrace and celebrate this through their anti-bullying campaigns in school.

Here are our top tips for including ASD young people in youth work:

 

  1. Celebrate everyone’s differences and promote a culture where everyone is accepted for their own unusual hobbies, interests and facts about themselves. Encourage young people to accept other people have different dislikes and likes.
  2. Allow ASD children to be as involved as they feel comfortable. Never force ASD young people to have to speak in front of people or get involved in group activities if they do not want too. Give them 3 options: to observe, participate or have some time out.
  3. Broaden your own understanding and awareness of the signs and symptoms of ASD. It’s very important when working with young people to raise awareness of ASD and support professionals, parents and students to develop their knowledge and understanding.

We believe it’s important for charities and organisations like ourselves to provide opportunities for young people like Chelsea to participate and be included.

We believe it’s important for charities and organisations like ourselves to provide opportunities for young people like Chelsea to participate and be included. In her own words, Chelsea said “it is important [to provide opportunities for young people with ASD to be included], as many autistic people are unable to find those opportunities easily. This gives them the opportunity to interact with other people and not feel left out.”

If you would like further information on ASD, click here

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© 2020 The Diana Award. The Diana Award is a registered charity (1117288 / SC041916) and a company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales number 5739137.