World Autism Acceptance Week 2023
World Autism Acceptance Week 2023
Autism Acceptance Week is an annual event by the National Autistic Society which aims to raise vital funds, increase acceptance, and create a society that works for autistic people. This year, Autism Acceptance Week is running from Monday 27th March to Sunday 2nd April 2023.
At Inspire North, we wanted to take World Autism Acceptance Week as an opportunity to learn more about autism, so we caught up with members of our Accessibility Network to hear about their experiences in and around the workplace. The following interview is with an autistic employee:
It is World Autism Acceptance Week, what does this week mean to you?
To me, World Autism Acceptance Week is about freedom, the freedom to be myself. Despite only being diagnosed in the last year, I’ve always known there was something ‘different’ about me.
When you are autistic, you spend a huge portion of your life hiding who you really are. It’s hard to tell people about your autism because there are still so many misconceptions of what that means.
Even around people who know about my autism, I spend a good amount of time pretending that I am someone else, hiding my more autistic traits. I want people to see the diversity of autism and see the beauty in who we are as a community.
Why is it important to learn more about autism?
It’s important to learn more about autism because I think a lot of people think that we choose to be the way we are, instead of seeing it as something that we cannot change. I think if more people learnt about autism and the diagnostic criteria, they would understand why we make the decisions and act how we do.
For example, I have difficulty controlling my emotions and adapting to change. Some people think that I just choose to be this way, but if they knew more about autistic traits, they would understand that I cannot control this, it’s who I am.
Can you tell us about autism in the workplace?
Autism in the workplace can be difficult to manage, especially if your workplace doesn’t fully understand what autism is. It can be difficult to understand workplace etiquette, socialising in general is difficult for me and this is heightened at work.
As an autistic person, it’s hard for me to gauge the correct level of sharing to have with colleagues. All of this is something I must navigate before even considering the actual work environment, which can sometimes be too bright, loud, and overwhelming for me.
What advice would you offer to autistic colleagues whilst in the workplace?
To my autistic peers, the main advice I would offer is to be your true self. Masking yourself all day everyday will eventually lead to burn out, so its best, in my experience, to go into it as yourself.
Speak to your manager about what they can do to help you manage the workplace environment. Set boundaries of things you are unable to do and be clear about them.
It’s also worth seeing if there is an autism support service in your area, as they will often be able to offer you more specific help and advice. In Leeds there is a service called Leeds Autism AIM, who I liaise with when I need support with everything, from filling in forms to tackling discrimination. ACAS are also another great resource who can offer you support and advice as to what your employer should be doing to support you.
To learn more about the Accessibility Network at Inspire North you can click here.
For more information about autism or if you need support:
Leeds Autism AIM – https://leedsautismaim.org.uk/
National Autistic Society – https://www.autism.org.uk/
Neurodiversity Awareness Week (resources) – https://www.neurodiversityweek.com/resource-hub
ACAS – https://www.acas.org.uk/
Beyond Autism – https://www.beyondautism.org.uk/
Leeds Autism Team – https://www.leedsth.nhs.uk/a-z-of-services/autism/