As a Black parent and community worker I have spent much of my life campaigning against racism and other forms of oppression. In recent years I have been involved in challenging discrimination and stereotypes about young Black men and autism and in particular the impact of oppression on the lives of Black autistic young people in education. I have my own personal story about fighting back against high rates of school exclusions of vulnerable African Caribbean Boys.
A2nd Voice an organisation that bring families from Black and Minority Ethnic Communities together to ensure that autistic voices heard hosted a presentation by Paul Issacs that was excellent. Paul Issac presented his work on autism and mental health conditions that opened up new ways of thinking about a holistic approach and assessment of the whole person and their individual experience. Paul explore’s Donna Williams approach of autism as a ‘fruit salad’.
This approach reminded me of a recent article in Psychology Today about autism ‘Neurodiversity, the Movement’ and the parallels with the Hearing Voices Movement. The HVM is international and seeks to challenge the basis of attributing ‘disorder’ to difference. This has been heart warming as I have been a member of this movement for a long time and can see how the two movements can learn from each other’s journey.
Paul’s presentation highlighted the need to work in parallel with individuals who are struggling with a range of issues that are impacted by many aspects of that person’s life experience that includes autism.
In my work as a psychotherapist I support people who are struggling with personal issues and experiences that affect a sense of belonging, their confidence and well-being. In my experience of working with people who are autistic, issues that arise are often related to trauma, anxiety, phobia’s, oppression and discrimination.
I want to advocate for a holistic approach that takes into account both personal issues and wider community and political issues of exclusion and discrimination. Working creatively together to identify issues, goals and or aspirations that might have seemed impossible to previously identify or reach. By creating a space together for stories to emerge where you are listened to and valued; working in partnership we can develop new insights, new opportunities, and increase skills and knowledge that support well-being.
Tailored holistic support could include
-Support to deal with issues that may be preventing the person from going forward
-training/mentoring to support people into work, education, self employment
-negotiating with work places for adjustments to be inclusive
-training and education for employers, teachers and training providers
Adopting a person centred, holistic approach to neurodiversity alongside challenging the expectation to ‘fit’ into the world of work or education, has the best chance of supporting individual success and the success of the wider community supporting and embracing inclusion.