The ISU are delighted to support Autism Awareness Week. We know that many members are affected – directly and indirectly – by autism and strongly believe that greater support and understanding can make a real difference to many lives.
Few people with severe autism are able to work and many face severe difficulties in education. Those who care for autistic children, often into adulthood, know these challenges. The mainstream Home Office now does fairly well in supporting carers but all too often still in front-line areas our people cannot get the right flexible working arrangements for caring needs. We believe that rigid, inflexible thinking on these issues not only discriminates needlessly for reasons associated with disability but also prevents people from making valuable contributions to our work.
Of course autism is a spectrum and many who have the condition are not so severely impacted that they cannot work. There are unknown but significant numbers of autistic people making huge contributions across the Home Office. Why unknown numbers ? Because many autistic people have never been formally diagnosed.
These are people who have faced years of prejudice – conscious and unconscious – because they behave ‘differently’ from others. Because they’re seen as ‘nerds’ because of their deep, passionate interests in subjects others find dull. Because they’re often less interested in socialising. Because they seem to fixate on details others do not. Because they’re just different.
There are so many autistic people who grew up in times where symptoms were little understood or ignored, where few allowances were made, where they were simply derided as ‘trainspotters’. Well these are also people who have overcome many obstacles and prejudices to stand where they are today. The personal cost has too often been severe but the achievements are real.
And autism is not only a male condition. On our website you will find a personal account from our Assistant General Secretary, Jane Leggett, which lays bare the damaging bias against diagnosing autism in women and girls that has needlessly blighted so many lives.
Our record on autism is improving but there is still distance to travel. Please take a look at the website resources we will be making available this week and help support your colleagues and friends dealing with autism in all of its forms.