Understanding Autism

    Understanding Autism

    Equality and Inclusion are at the heart of everything we do here at the Housing Diversity Network and the spectrum of groups we try to help is wide and rich in contrast.

    Some organisations and people we support are well established and easily identifiable while others are maybe less so. And public awareness, as well as available research and knowledge, varies between different groups across society, one such area being that of neurodiversity.

    The dictionary definition of neurodiversity describes it as the range of individual brain functions and behavioural traits, regarded as part of normal variation in the human population – often used in the context of autistic spectrum disorders. There are a range of hidden neurological conditions including Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Tourettes.

    But how many of us can say we truly understand autism?

    Medical research in the area is still relatively new and, unless you live with, or work closely with, someone with Autism then it is hard to imagine and hard to explain. Many myths about the condition exist and sadly some stigma and negative attitudes prevail.

    Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition which affects how people perceive and experience the world and, while autistic people often have learning disabilities, and that is separate to autism itself.

    And the condition has a diverse spectrum of strengths and needs. Some autistic people have complicated support needs, while others are of high intellectual capability and have no support needs. The high functioning autistic people often hold senior jobs and many are skilled scientists, while some of the country’s leading politicians have been diagnosed on the Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

    You may well work with, or socialize with, someone with Autism and not know it, but traits quite often include clunky communication and an inability to empathise. Devotion to routines and almost obsessive interest in subjects can be a real strength in terms of career, but not always in terms of making friends.

    We’ll be discussing neurodiversity, among other subjects at the upcoming HDN Webinar on Disability in Housing on 24th May.

    Like any group with a difference, Autism attracts stigma. It is not a learning disability; but a recent poll showed that over a third of UK citizens believed it to be one; while around a third of respondents thought autism can be cured, which clumsily ignores what many autistic people perceive to be the strengths autism provides them with.

    High functioning autistic people can be hurt by the suggestion that they don’t care about others, and that single, erroneous, belief can have a big and negative impact on autistic people’s social and career aspirations. The fact that autistic people may behave and communicate in different ways to most other people doesn’t mean they don’t have the same hopes and fears.

    And at the more severe end of the spectrum, autistic people may be non- communicating and need help with almost every function in life and, in these cases, housing associations have a big part to play.

    A neurological condition, while it can’t always be seen, must not be the barrier to access the equality, diversity and inclusion opportunities open to all.

    People with any disability have every right to the same employment opportunities as everyone else and we’ll be discussing this at our webinar on 24th May where Ian Rowlands and Nicola Martin, from the Autism charity Talkback, will share their experiences of supporting people with autism to gain employment, and of trying to gain employment as a person with Autism.

    We hope to see you there:



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