6 April 2023
Last week we celebrated Autism Acceptance Week, an opportunity to increase the understanding and acceptance of Autistic people. More than one in 100 people are Autistic with around 700,000 Autistic adults and children in the UK. Here at Coleg Gwent, we know that our college is made up of lots of different people, and work hard to create safe environments which suit the needs of our Autistic learners and staff.
Autism is another way of being human, it is a neurological difference within the human population that affects the way in which Autistic people experience and interact with their environment. Every Autistic person is different and each has their own way of being in the world.
What are we doing to build a supportive college environment?
Last year, the college employed Rhys Lewis as an Autism Coach to help support staff and Autistic learners. Rhys works across the five campuses and uses his knowledge and skills to work with Autistic learners to enable them to progress further during their time at college.
During Autism Acceptance Week, we have been raising awareness of what it’s like to be Autistic and have held a series of on-campus and virtual coffee sessions with local charity Hope GB to encourage Autism acceptance across our college. Over 100 learners and staff have attended the events that were organised alongside our Autistic learners following the universal design approach to ensure accessibility for everyone attending.
During the events, attendees were encouraged to watch a series of Autism awareness videos before completing a quiz to help our college community gain a greater acceptance, awareness, and understanding of autism.
Tops tips on how to be an ally and support Autistic people:
1. Educate yourself
The first step to being an ally is to learn. Take the time to research and read about Autism, including talking to Autistic people about their personal experiences and challenges.
2. Respect differences
Autism is experienced by individuals differently, so it’s vital to acknowledge and respect these differences. What works for one person may not work for another. Recognise that everyone has their strengths and challenges, and that they should be appreciated and valued for who they are.
3. Listen and be patient
Some Autistic people may struggle with social communication, so it’s essential to listen carefully and be patient when interacting with them. Avoid interrupting them and give them time to process and respond. It’s also essential to be mindful of your tone of voice and body language as it can impact how you are perceived.
4. Be inclusive
Some Autistic people may not always initiate social interactions, so taking the initiative to include them can go a long way in making them feel accepted and included. If you’re planning an event, ask Autistic people if they would like any environmental changes to be made – this could include creating a sensory-friendly environment by considering lighting, noise, and seating arrangements.
5. Avoid assumptions and stereotypes
Don’t assume that if someone is Autistic they aren’t interested in socialising or incapable of doing certain things.
6. Show empathy and understanding
Showing support and understanding can go a long way in making Autistic people feel valued and accepted.
Here at Coleg Gwent we’re committed to creating an inclusive environment for Autistic learners and staff that is welcoming and supportive. Promoting diversity and inclusion not only benefits our Autistic students but also enriches the learning experience for everyone. Let us work together to create a supportive college environment that celebrates and values all individuals, regardless of their differences.