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Autism Awareness by Becky Davidson

29 March - 4 April is Autism Awareness Week and to acknowledge that, we want to support the efforts of the National Autistic Society in raising awareness. There is a wealth of information explaining what autism is and how it affects children and adults in the UK.

‘Autism is a lifelong developmental disability which affects how people communicate and interact with the world. One in 100 people are on the autism spectrum and there are around 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK. National Autistic Society 2021.

One thing that children and adults with autism have in common, is finding social interaction and communication challenging. This includes, finding it difficult to interpret verbal and non-verbal language as well as struggling to read other people, and their emotions and body language. There are other areas which autistic people can find challenging, including repetitive and restrictive behaviour, over or under sensitivity to touch, sound, taste or light, having highly focused interests or hobbies, extreme anxiety, having meltdowns or shutdowns. There's a great video below, put together by the National Autistic Society, from autistic people and their families, on how the public can best support autistic people.

The definition of autism has changed over time as more is known about it and is likely to change in years to come to adapt to when we know more. There is no one way of being autistic; children, young people and adults will have different strengths and weaknesses. There is a real misunderstanding and misinformation when it comes to autism in wider society and there are lots of resources on the National Autistic Society website to bust myths around this. For example, that autistic people are good at solving Rubik's Cubes or that autistic people had a lack of hugs as a child. The National Autistic Society have lots of resources on how autism impacts on children and adults. This can range from a lack of understanding from friends, family and the wider public, to a lack of jobs, and suffering from an increase in mental illness. They have recently started publishing Stories form the Spectrum, sharing their experiences of life on the autistic spectrum, you can find the link here. Bristol City Council have a useful website with lots of information supporting children and young people with autism and the diagnosis process. You can find the information on the Local Offer page and on their Facebook page. They run groups for parents covering the ways in which parents, family, early year settings, schools and wider public can support an autistic child and what can be expected from local services. Support in education settings Bristol Autism Team Education Hub. The Bristol Autism Team Education Hub support children and young people who have a formal diagnosis of autism. Here at East Bristol Children's Centre, we run an online SEND Nurture Group for parents of children with diagnosed or undiagnosed SEND. This isn't just for parents with children with autism but is an online space for parents who have an autistic child or are going through the process of having a diagnosis to meet others who are having similar experiences. It's a space to build community and make connections.

For more information, you can call me, Becky, at St Anne's Park Children's Centre on 0117 3773189 or Poppy who runs the group, 07792 189909.

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