Autism is not a label: it is a sign post
The Children’s Schools and Families Scrutiny Committee which I sit on, organised an information event on Autism. The first question asked by one of the speakers was ‘On a scale of 1 – 10 how would you rate your knowledge of the provision in Cornwall to support children with Autism?’ My answer was sadly one. Autism is something I have not had experience in, either with a family member, or a friend.
Because my knowledge on autism was so poor I was really looking forward to this event. The aim of the session was to raise awareness of Autism and the triad of differences; highlight the implications in the school setting, and to explain supportive strategies by both Cornwall Council and other organisations.
I was not disappointed as the information presented was spoken with passion from the various professionals and a parent there. I never knew it was estimated that 1 in a 100 will have an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and individuals with Autism will have a common set of characteristics in communication, social interaction, imagination and flexibility of thought.
Many people with Autism will have more than one diagnosis with the most common being learning difficulties, dyspraxia, dyslexia and ACHD. However, it was pointed out that like all children are different, this is also true of children with ASD. Diagnosing ASD has vastly improved in the years, but it might not be identified until much later. I was told puberty was an important stage to diagnose ASD.
After listening to the professionals it was the turn of a parent with a child with ASD. After listening to what she said I was at first shocked, but also greatly admired her courage in overcoming lots of prejudices from people who were quick to blame bad parenting. She spoke of her frustrations with the system and how she had seen far too many professionals who asked the same questions over and over again.
She pointed out whilst a lot of professional help had been great, she had to sort out a lot of the issue herself due to lack of understanding. However, this had improved over the years and now there was a lot more help out there. The point was made of more joined up working between different organisations as this is one area that would help parents and people with ASD.
I was told those young people with ASD are more easily taken advantage of and this is reflected in a high levels of people with ASD are in the criminal justice system.
Those present were told of the good work that is currently being undertaken and how this was going to improve over the coming years with support and money being put in this area. Of course there is no magic wand to wave, nor unlimited pots of money, but what the various organisations are trying to do is a good sign this area is being given some priority.
This event was open to all Cornwall Councillors, but sadly only twelve turned up. I know people’s diaries are busy and people have to prioritise, but I am pleased I attended this event as it gave me a greater understanding in this area.
Lastly, I was asked the question on a scale of 1 – 10 my knowledge was now. I would now say now 2-3. Still a long way to go, but it is better than where I started at the beginning.