Celebrating Autism Awareness Week - Difference not Deficit | People Plus

Celebrating Autism Awareness Week – Difference not Deficit

Many employers and organisations are marking autism awareness week as a chance to raise awareness of the fact that we need to do better as a society to support autistic people.  In doing so, we will build a more inclusive workforce and truly benefit from their talents and often, their ability to offer a different perspective than their ‘neurotypical’ counterparts.

The Office of National Statistics recently highlighted the fact that just 22% of adults with autism are in any kind of employment and so the forthcoming autism strategy and national disability strategy are welcome interventions to address this employment gap. That said, there are some great companies that are already tapping into the talent and strengths of people on the spectrum.  Companies such as Google, Microsoft, Santander and Goldman Sachs have publicly expressed the benefits of actively recruiting from ‘neurodiverse’ individuals demonstrating the business benefits of employing people who experience the world in a different way.  This is hugely positive and represents a welcome step forward to re-orient the debate on diversity and inclusion so that we focus on each individual’s true potential, removing barriers to employment and allowing them to shine in a role that focuses on their strengths.

For PeoplePlus, this is an important aspect of the work we do across our frontline services, through employability contracts, skills courses and of course, the work we do in prison education where many individuals have had disrupted school lives because of a lack of support available to them.

Our SEND Manager, Sarah Jones, spends each day supporting prison education so that it is fully accessible for learners who are neurodiverse.  Her role, to ensure that each learner’s needs are met within the prison education environment, has meant she has seen first-hand, how powerful it can be when learners start to believe in themselves for the first time. She comments:

“Neurodiversity should be seen as a difference not deficit. We are all exceptional in our own way.  Recently one of my neurodiverse learners was talking to me about how accessing education has genuinely changed his life.”

He said

“Teaching me to read in Education has truly changed my life. I am due to be released in 3 weeks and I am already enrolled in a college course thanks to the Learning Support Practitioners in Education. I never thought at 63 this was possible. I am forever thankful. I have lots of books I am now reading and still remember your words of advice when teaching me the basics.’

There is a simple message at heart – that celebrating neurodiversity means recognising that difference doesn’t mean deficit and that diversity – and different ways of thinking – make us stronger and allow for innovation and creativity in our society.

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