Autistic Pride Day
Audio reading of the blog post
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Autistic Pride Day | by Ben Annett CENMAC Advisory Teacher
June 18 marks Autistic Pride Day. The symbol for the day is a rainbow infinity symbol, representing “diversity and infinite variations and possibilities”. The gold colouring was chosen as the chemical symbol for gold is Au.
Autistic Pride Day is a time for autistic people to celebrate their abilities, not mourn their disabilities.
Coronavirus has put pressure on all aspects of our society, with many of the pre-existing fault lines and tensions being laid bare. It’s been a hugely challenging time for so many. However, Autistic Pride Day is a time for autistic people to celebrate their abilities, not mourn their disabilities. Autistic people have always played an important role in our society, and Autistic Pride Day is a time to celebrate the role of neuro-diversity in the rich tapestry of the human experience. We all have individual skills, attributes and characteristics that are every bit as unique as a personality. However, the autistic mind often confers benefits – attention to detail and focus, observational skills, strong memories, unique and creative problem solving, determination, integrity and commitment.
Many of us have been making the most of lockdown by using online collaboration and meeting tools. Much has been made of the challenges that these present, but let’s take a moment to consider the advantages. Whilst it is true that this new way of working has been challenging for many of us, it has also offered some unique opportunities for some on the spectrum to thrive. Removed from the social maelstrom and sensory overload of the shared physical space, some learners have been able to focus within a more predictable and controllable environment without the overload of ambient noise and fluorescent lights. The pre-Covid assumption that face-to-face interaction was superior created a power-imbalance that disadvantaged those who needed time to think and process before responding. Digital learning has been in place for some time now, but we have seen immeasurable progress in digital practice over the lockdown period, with schools putting a huge amount of thought and resource into developing their online offerings.
Remote tools such as Teams and Zoom have increasingly replaced hallway conversations and rushed classroom dialogues, and in doing so have removed an obstacle for people who struggle with social interaction. Physical interactions consist of a host of non-verbal cues, which can leave some autistic people confused at how decisions are reached and shut out of the dynamic. Online interactions’ removal of many of the non-verbal cues can be liberating for some neurodivergent students. Although many of our students have struggled with changes of routine and lack of personal contact brought about by Covid, a significant minority of our learners have thrived whilst at home. The family of at least one of my students, who made considerable academic progress over the lockdown period, has made a positive decision to continue with home learning with the full support of his family and school.
‘Digital learning has been in place for some time now, but we have seen immeasurable progress in digital practice over the lockdown period.’
… one of my students, who made considerable academic progress over the lockdown period, has made a positive decision to continue with home learning with the full support of his family and school.
Some of our schools have found that measures initially introduced to implement social distancing have had an unexpected positive impact on student progress and welfare; for example, reducing the need for students to physically move around the school buildings and staggering break-times. We have been immensely impressed with our students’ and educators’ resilience and willingness to embrace change. As Winston Churchill said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste”. Let us continue to innovate and build upon our experiences over the past year to develop a way of working that is more flexible and better able to meet the needs of our neurodiverse students and better equip them to thrive in an increasingly digital world.