In this instalment of 'Let's Talk About Disability', we are talking about autism.
Annually, during March and April (exact dates change annually) World Autism Acceptance Week is celebrated.
Having a better understanding of how members of our staff and student community might see the world from a uniquely individual perspective is how we can embrace difference and raise awareness.
Not familiar with this instalment's theme? Find out more by clicking below:
What is autism?
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.
You can find out more about autism on the National Autistic Society website.
Why did the name change from World Autism Awareness Week to Acceptance?
The annual observation used to be called World Autism Awareness Week, but in 2022 this was updated - talking about the change, the National Autistic Society said:
"We’ve come a long way in the past 60 years and today almost everyone has heard of autism. But far too few people understand what it’s actually like to be autistic – both the strengths you can have and how hard life can be at times. No-one should feel judged for being autistic or have to wait many months or even years for a potentially life changing diagnosis, vital help and support. We need society to change. Autistic children, adults, and their families just want to be understood, supported, and accepted in their communities, schools, and workplaces."
Stories from our community
Learn more by reading the personal story of a student below and in this blog - World Autism Awareness Week: How the Library can support you.
"For me, people appreciating the differences and difficulties that people with autism face is crucial. Understanding that we may need more time to process what is going on around us, may have seen things differently to you, or have anxiety and sensory barriers that stop us from participating in certain activities is central to being able to support someone with autism. I also think that it is really important for people with AS to seek out others with similar differences. Being with other autistic people really helped me to celebrate my differences rather than feeling alone and isolated in them because I realised that there are others out there going through the same things that I am. Having a support networks out there with an amazing understanding of the difficulties that I face as an autistic person really helps me with day to day life because I know that if I am struggling, people will understand why, and know how to support me."
Find out more about the work of the Students' Union Disabled Students’ Officer and Warwick Enable - the disability liberation and campaigning society on campus for disabled students, their friends, allies and carers or enablers, and anyone who is passionate about disability and inclusivity.
Autism at Warwick
Autism at Warwick is a student society set up by and for autistic students at the university. They run socials and campaigns, and are home to a lively Discord group chat where members can discuss anything from films to baking, as well as providing a safe space for peer support and autism-related discussions.
Join the Disabled Staff Network. The network is open to all staff members with an interest in making the University a more accessible place for all and creating a more inclusive environment.
Support network for parents
Are you the parent or carer of a neurodivergent child or young adult? A number of colleagues have recently started to catch up informally once a month to share thoughts, feelings, and frustrations as well as offer each other moral support and practical tips and ideas.
What students wish you knew
Autism at Warwick have produced a comprehensive guide for staff about autism, teaching and learning, and addressing common myths and stereotypes - 'What I Wish You Knew: A Guide for Staff from Autistic Student'.
Disability Services have collated a list of quieter spaces on campus which can help provide a calmer environment for any student who is feeling overwhelmed.
Hear from autistic students
Listen to three autistic Warwick students talk about their experience of starting University:
- Elinor talks about what to consider when choosing your university; where to live, which course and university to choose, support, and disclosure.
- Kenneth talks about adapting to university life, disclosure, and support.
- Richard talks about what to consider when choosing your university; where to live, which university to choose, support, and disclosure. Richard explains why he chose to live at home whilst studying for his degree.
Autism reading list
The Library has worked with Autism at Warwick to produce an autism reading list with a variety of resources for anyone to access to find out more about autism, improving awareness, and understanding.
The Library can be an overwhelming place; bright lights, book alarms and the buzz from the group study area. We understand people learn differently and need different spaces, so this blog runs through some of the different spaces and support we provide at the Library.
Wearing the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower lanyard is a discreet way to choose to make the invisible visible. It discreetly indicates to people that the wearer may need additional support, help or a little more time.
Autism and Communication guidance
The Work Inclusion Project have developed this guidance on autism and communication, including 12 tips for autistic-friendly communication.
Autism&Uni best practice
Autism&Uni provide a wide range of free Best Practice Guides for professionals supporting autistic students in Higher Education.
Inclusive teaching workshop
The inaugural Warwick Inclusion Conference, held in June 2022, included a session on 'Inclusive teaching for autistic and neurodivergent students' - you can catch up on key learning from the session on the Conference webpages.
Each year we invite students with ASD to our Transition Programme for a quieter and more gentle transition to University.
As part of the programme, we will introduce students and parents to Disability team staff, specialist mentors and other support staff. We will ensure each student has basic information about their timetable and explain what will happen during Welcome to Warwick Week. Students will also have a small group tour of the library.
Over the following week, we offer a number of optional live and virtual events for students from the programme to participate in. These will complement other activities organised as part of the main Welcome Week.
Amongst other things, we are planning a tour to lesser known and quiet parts of the campus, a visit to a local supermarket, a session on using the laundry facilities and an introduction to booking sporting facilities.
Specialist mentoring is available to AS students on an individual need basis. Home students can access funding through the Disabled Student Allowances (DSAs) for specialist mentoring and sometimes also for specialist study skills. The Disability Team can help you with the application process for the DSAs.
Autism Easter School
Warwick’s Easter School for Autistic students is a two night/three day residential university experience for year 12 students who are autistic and who want to explore the possibility of going to university.
Get adjustments to support you in your work or studies.
- Adjustments for staff: MAP is a tool to help you to have meaningful and confidential conversations with your line manager or other University representative.
- Adjustments for students: Disability Services can support you to access a range of adjustments, exam arrangements, advice, and one to one study skills support.
As members of the Business Disability Forum, the University has access to a range of Member Resouces including toolkits, factsheets, case studies, videos, and webinars to help you understand more about how to be disability inclusive. Just sign up with your University email address to get a free account.
Membership also grants us unlimited access to BDF's confidential Advice Service, a team of expert advisers who are enthusiastic about improving disabled people’s experiences of employment and users of services.