Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

A little change can go a long way for people with autism

Dan Parton cutSome good news about autism this week: it seems that more of the general population know about the condition – and services are increasingly adapting their approaches to become more autism-friendly, says Dan Parton:

These were a couple of the findings from a survey undertaken as part of World Autism Awareness Day back in April. It revealed a hearteningly wide knowledge of autism among the general population – only one respondent didn’t know about the condition and only 8% knew only what they had read or watched. This shows that knowledge of autism is becoming more widespread in the UK, and therefore less likely to be seen as a rare or unusual condition and hopefully meaning that those with autism are more likely to be accepted and sympathetically treated.

So it should be no surprise that another finding was that more services now understand why changes are needed to make them more accessible to people with autism and are putting those changes in place. The 3 key shifts in practice that services should make, according to the survey, were to:

  • Reduce the reliance on face-to-face communication and use moreresources such as email
  • Reduce sensory overload (turning down lights, sound etc)
  • Increase awareness of autism across the board inservices/businesses.

Of course, that relatively simple and – crucial in the current economic climate – inexpensive changes can make services more autism-friendly is not a revelation. As the survey found, a good number of services already recognise the benefits. Meanwhile, the Autism Friendly Films initiative, run by service provider Dimensions and cinema chain ODEON, which began in the summer, after the survey was conducted, has been a great success. There, small changes to sound, lighting and such like, have opened up cinemas toan audience who previously could often not cope with them, due to their sensory difficulties.

Now, each time an Autism Friendly Film is on, thousands go to watch. The scheme now also runs on aweekend, to make it even more accessible. It just goes to show whatcan be done with a little thought. As the survey acknowledges, it doesn’t require top-down policy-led change to make things better;just a few, thoughtful changes can make a big difference to people with autism. This is something that should be shared with a widerservices and business audience.

Not only will initiating a fewchanges make the business more inclusive – as well as being goodpractice – it could also boost trade. While businesses may notalways make changes for purely altruistic reasons, they will forfinancial ones. But, by whatever means they are brought about, theywould be good news for people with autism.

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