By Amy Lewis
Operations Director at Just Checking
When I worked as an Area Manager for the National Autistic Society, the UK’s leading charity for autistic people and their families, I remember marking what was then known as World Autism Awareness Week.
Today, it has become World Autism Acceptance Week, and I’m really pleased to see the progression that’s been made. It may only seem like a small change, but the fact that society is moving from merely being aware of people with autism, to accepting who they are, is the next step on our journey.
Of course, the journey isn’t over. I’d like to see a world where we call it World Autism Celebration Week… because there’s a lot to celebrate!
Helping make great things happen
Autism has been something that’s been a lifelong feature throughout my life; not only on a professional level within every role I’ve had – and now with Just Checking – but also on a personal level. And I’m really glad that it has.
While it’s true that people and families who are touched by autism face challenges, some dramatic, I have seen – and continue to see – that when humans are compassionate, listen to the aspirations of others, and genuinely support self-determination, great things happen.
Take the gentleman who’s spent many years in and out of Assessment and Treatment Units (ATUs) with two live-in support workers. With the help of assistive technology, he’s now living in his community in his own flat, carrying out a daily paper-round, and described by his employer as a very dependable worker.
Or there’s the young woman living with frequent anxiety attacks, who previously wasn’t able to spend any time on her own but is now able to ask support staff to leave her room when she wants to be alone – and can be safely monitored remotely until she’s feeling calmer.
The right to choose
In both these situations, the underlying principle is giving people the opportunity to enjoy free will; the right to choose how they live their life. From the socks they wear to the house they live in, it’s a right that is paramount to a happy and fulfilled life. And perhaps one that many of us take for granted.
For some people the right to choose is harder to communicate to others, or it comes with greater risks, but this just means that we – as a society – have a duty to work even harder to listen, and make these choices a reality.