Young people from the charity Ambitious about Autism have launched a new resource to help more autistic young people access youth groups and after school activities.
The Include Autism resource has been created by members of the charity’s Youth Council to help tackle the problem of loneliness and social isolation felt by many of their peers. According to research by the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission, 81% of autistic adults say they feel lonely at least some of the time due to autism-related anxiety, while over 80% of young people with autism believe they spend less time socialising than their peers.
The new toolkit, which has been funded by the Comic Relief Sustainability Fund, has been developed to give those running youth groups or clubs a better understanding of autism and how to support autistic young people. It is also hoped it will help parents and young people approach local youth leaders and suggest changes to increase accessibility.
It offers advice on what autism is and how to talk about it positively, as well as tips on simple changes youth leaders can make to make meetings more accessible for all. These tips include:
• Giving new members the option of visiting the group before they start
• Dim the lightbulbs, use natural light, or allow sunglasses
• Say a person’s name before giving clear and straightforward instructions
• Allow headphones or ear-defenders and have a designated quiet room
• Have a visual agenda showing what is going to happen
• Offer new members a buddy to show them where to go and what to do.
Georgia Ellin, 20, a member of Ambitious about Autism’s Youth Council, said:
“We wanted to create this resource because many of us have personally experienced exclusion from youth groups, being told they ‘couldn’t deal with us’.
“Our aim is to show that it’s actually very easy to include autistic people – often it takes very simple changes to language, attitude and the environment. We hope this resource will help more autistic young people feel welcome and included by youth groups and within their wider community.”
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Jolanta Lasota, Chief Executive of Ambitious about Autism, said:
“Young people with autism are among the most isolated in society. Not only are they at much higher risk of exclusion from school, they also face barriers in many other aspects of their lives – such as entering youth groups.
“We’re very proud of our Youth Patron’s determination to tackle this problem on behalf of their peers in such a positive and practical way. This resource will increase understanding and acceptance of autism and ensure autistic young people have opportunities to make new friends, increase their independence and learn new skills.”
Ambitious about Autism’s Youth Council is a group of 15 young autistic people aged 16-25 from across England who directly steer the charity’s campaign work and consult with a wide range of organisations to improve services for young autistic people.
Access the toolkit here