World Autism Acceptance Week 2023
This year, World Autism Acceptance Week is from 27th March to 2nd April, with World Autism Acceptance Day itself falling on Sunday 2nd April.
In previous years, the week has been known as World Autism Awareness Week, but this was changed to World Autism Acceptance Week to align with the goal of communities being inclusive of autistic people.
It is thought that there are currently around 700,000 autistic people in the UK. World Autism Acceptance week aims to contribute towards creating a more inclusive world: a world where autistic people are accepted in society and able to live a life of choice and opportunity.
What is Autism?
Autism is a lifelong developmental condition that can affect how a person communicates and interacts and makes sense of the world around them.
Around 1 in 100 people in the UK are known to be autistic, with many more boys diagnosed than girls. Until quite recently, it was thought that autism was more common in males, but research is now confirming an autism gender gap: women and girls often go undiagnosed, or get diagnosed later, because of failures to recognise the different ways autism can present in girls or the role played by social expectations of the different genders.
Autism is a spectrum condition, which means that although all autistic people experience differences from their non-autistic peers, they may be affected to varying degrees in different areas. For example, one autistic person may have significant sensory differences, but not special interests. Another may experience difficulties with certain cognitive
processes like planning or paying attention (often called executive function), but their sensory perception is similar to a non-autistic person.
The autistic spectrum is not a line between ‘autistic’ and ‘not autistic’, but a more complex space. Each person’s place on the spectrum is unique, depending on their specific differences. A person’s position on the autism spectrum can change over time, and their needs may change as a result. Together, different ways of being autistic are known as autistic spectrum conditions (ASCs).
Autistic people may differ from their non-autistic peers in the following ways:
- social communication
- social interaction, including reading emotions and facial expressions
- social imagination
- sensory sensitivities
- having special interests
- showing repetitive patterns of behaviour
- executive function skills
Some aspects of daily life that non-autistic people can manage relatively easily, for example a busy, loud train, can be very distressing for an autistic person and cause behaviours that might challenge those around them.
Autistic people may also have varying degrees of learning difficulties or disabilities. Or they may have other conditions such as: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); dyspraxia, which affects coordinating thoughts and movements; hypermobility syndrome; epilepsy or tourette syndrome. Having one neurodevelopmental condition increases the likelihood of having another.
It’s important to remember that, although common characteristics of autism have been listed here, every autistic person is unique and has their own specific strengths and challenges.
Many people use the term neurodiversity as an umbrella term to recognise that people interact with the world around them in many different ways and that there is no one ‘right’ way of thinking, learning or behaving. Neurodiverse conditions include autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, tourette syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Neurodiversity is a concept where neurological differences are seen as natural variations of the brain. These neurological differences are recognised and respected, celebrated and allow people to be themselves.
East Sussex information and support:
Below is a list of local organisations and services that can provide information or support if you, or someone you know or care for, has autism:
- Amaze – a Sussex based charity that gives information, advice and support to families of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in Brighton & Hove and Sussex. Tel: 01273 772289 or email: email@example.com or visit: https://amazesussex.org.uk
- Aspens – family support groups and clinics, parent carer courses and workshops and a variety of groups for children and young people with autism across East Sussex. They also run Easter and Summer holiday clubs. Call 0345 450 0060 or visit www.aspens.org.uk
- Child Development Teams – consultant paediatricians, specialist nurses and therapists who assess and support children up to 11 who may be on the autistic spectrum. Ask your GP, health visitor, your child’s school or another professional working with your child for a referral. In East Sussex, it is based at Community Paediatrics Parkview in Bexhill, Kipling Outpatient Dept in Hastings and satellite clinics.
- Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) – diagnose, assess and support young people with ASC aged 11 -18. Referrals to CAMHS are usually made by a professional such as your GP or the school nurse, but you can also self-refer as outlined on their website: https://www.sussexcamhs.nhs.uk/referrals
- CLASS+ Part of the ISEND service (see below), CLASS+ provides support for families with autistic children including advice, coffee mornings, workshops and short-term support at home. Call: 01273 336887 or visit www.facebook.com/CLASSPlusEastSussex
- mASCot – parent-led support group for Sussex families with a child or young person with an autism spectrum condition. It has a private online forum and holds regular meet-ups. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or go to: www.asc-mascot.com
- Inclusion, Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (ISEND) sits within East Sussex County Council’s Children’s Services and includes the Communication, Learning, Autism Support Service (CLASS) that provides specialist support to schools in East Sussex for 4-16 year olds with autism, communication and learning difficulties. ISEND also provides the local authority’s online listing of the services and support for families with children with SEND in the area: https://localoffer.eastsussex.gov.uk
- East Sussex Parent Carer Forum – for parents or carers of a child or young person age 0-25 with a special educational need or disability. Tel: 0300 770 1367 Email: email@example.com or visit: www.espcf.org.uk
- Spectrum Autism Support – helps young people with autism aged 0 to 19 to join in activities and their community independently. Run skills award course and groups for 10-18 year olds. Call: 01424 724700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ambitious About Autism – national charity for autistic children and young people. www.ambitiousaboutautism.org.uk.
- Autistica – autism research and campaigning charity https://www.autistica.org.uk
- Autism Education Trust – a not for profit organisation aiming to improve educational access, experience and outcomes for autistic children and young people – www.autismeducationtrust.org.uk
- National Autistic Society – extensive resources, advice and guidance plus helplines for education issues and parent to parent emotional support. Visit their website at www.autism.org.uk or call their helpline on: 0808 800 4104.
- NHS – provides information and guidance for autistic adults and parents/carers, including information about conditions that can affect autistic people https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/autism/
Tell us about your experience:
You can leave a review of health and care services in East Sussex each and every time you use them via our Feedback Centre. This only takes a few minutes and helps commissioners, providers and Healthwatch understand how services are performing.
The Healthwatch East Sussex Information and Signposting (I&S) Service helps people to access the right health or social care service or organisation for their needs. In addition, the I&S service also enables people to share their experience or make a complaint about services they have used.
To contact our Information and Signposting Service please call: 0333 101 4004 or