At the beginning of the month the world celebrated Autism Awareness Day. Autism is a topic of great importance to the Go_Girl team, especially due to the fact that a number of the Go_Girls identify as autistic. Today we were lucky to have some presentations from the Go_Girl group about autism, neurodiversity and what it is like to be autistic.
There are around 700,000 people on the autistic spectrum in the UK, which is more than 1 in 100 of the population. It is so important that awareness is raised so that the world knows more about the positive aspects of autism, as well as what can be done to support those experiencing it. Autism is very individual, and varies hugely between different people. No two autistic people are alike, but that is not represented enough in mainstream media.
In particular, the group was amazed to learn that girls with autism largely ‘fly under the radar’ and remain undiagnosed for far longer than boys. This is an issue of great importance, because without a diagnosis it is difficult to access extra support. For example, autistic young women are prone to developing eating disorders as a way of controlling the confusing world around them. However, the link between autism and eating disorders is only just starting to be recognised. Some of the Go_Girls bravely shared the challenges that they had faced with their autism. Bullying, lack of school support, struggling with loud noises and unexpected changes, social isolation and feeling misunderstood were issues raised in their speeches.
However, when young women with autism are respected, understood and given the support they need they can flourish. We watched a fantastic video all about the only state school for girls with autism in the UK. The girls in this mini documentary had been able to pursue their passions in an accepting and welcoming environment. It meant so much to hear from the Go_Girls that they felt this way in the Go_Girl group. In particular, they said that being listened to is so important and they felt that the team really tried to hear what they were trying to say. Referring to autism as an example of ‘neurodiversity’ moves away from seeing it as an isolated ‘learning difficulty’ towards celebrating it as part of a more inclusive neurological spectrum.
Luckily, the world is waking up and becoming better informed about autism. JP Morgan, for example, is specifically seeking to employ autistic people because of the passion, focus and aptitude that they have. A survey by the National Autistic Society found that only 16% of autistic people are in full-time work, despite 77% saying that they would like to be employed. Hopefully this will change in the coming years so that more autistic people can have the opportunity to pursue a fulfilling career. Here at Go_Girl we will be supporting each other, no matter where we are in the spectrum of neurodiversity, to make our future goals happen.