Tuesday, 3 May 2016

My thoughts on the recent Westminster Debate on Autism Awareness

Last week, there was a Hansard debate in Westminster for World Autism Awareness Week, which occurred in the first week of April; what we really need is Autism Acceptance as well as Autism Awareness.

This debate, which lasted 3 hours and 23 minutes, can be found here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2016-04-28/debates/16042848000001/WorldAutismAwarenessWeek

Much about autism was crucially missing from this debate, however. There was a lot of talk about autism awareness but no mention of specifically autism acceptance, and for that matter, acceptance of neurodiversity (which also covers conditions like ADHD), which is what this country really needs; most people are aware of autism but not many people understand and accept autism for what it is and the contributions autistic people can make for us all. Highlighting the problems we face, such as significant problems with employment (the unemployment rate for autistic adults exceeds 80% and a quarter of all autistic adults holding a university degree are unemployed; I myself have almost entirely been in part-time work since I gained my undergraduate degree) and the need for more adaptations to autistic needs, insufficient public understanding of autism and autism-related issues, and how we may now have a bright future is useful but fundamental means of addressing the struggles we face across the UK and making sure the public are more accepting of us as a whole were not really mentioned in this debate. There was also no real input from organisations dedicated to promoting the rights and wishes of autistic people which are also run by autistic people, such as Autistic UK, and insufficient input from autistic constituents themselves within the debate.

There was also no mention in how the replacement of DLA with PIP, complications with the introduction of Universal Credit, and the overall economic programme are detrimental to the well-being and ambitions of autistic people one way or another; we have suffered a lot under austerity but our specific struggles under it are rarely even mentioned.

For those of you who read my blog and are autistic, the Westminster Autism Commission is still inviting responses: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WestminsterAutismCommmission 
Just remember that the deadline to submit your response is 9th May 2016.

Alan.

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