The Valuing Autism Blog


Celebrations with family and friends are an important part of life – sharing joy and taking a break from our day to day lives. Sometimes it is easy to forget that what neuro-typical people find enjoyable can be a source of stress and anxiety for someone who relies on the everyday structure to understand the world around them.

A lot of how we celebrate can be steeped in family and community traditions, some of which we cannot explain to others, it is ‘just the way we always do it”.

Celebrations bring a vast number of changes to routines and expectations. Our homes, offices and schools are suddenly decorated; our daily routine is now punctuated with events, performances, parties and visitors – some planned and some spontaneous – and everyone is expected to be happy with all this disruption as it is a time for celebration.

So, if the holiday season and celebrations are leading to stress for the autistic person in your life, think about how you can make it a restful, celebratory time for everyone. Here are five tips for valuing autism during the holidays:

· Plan ahead and avoid surprises. Actively discourage those who drop by unannounced if the doorbell is a source of stress. Explain to friends and family that your attendance at gatherings may be reduced, or non-existent, depending on anxiety levels. Those who truly value you will understand.

· Ensure one area in each key location is the same as always – no decorations, no festive music etc. – a safe place to spend time if feeling overwhelmed.

· Take a graduated approach if required – if you like to have a lot of decorations, then add them slowly as the festive season progresses and make sure everyone has a role in decorating so that there are no surprises.

· We are expected to enjoy presents, but gift-giving (and receiving) requires us to understand a large number of social etiquettes. We are expected to enjoy surprise gifts and the anticipation of not knowing what someone has bought for us, but for those dealing with anxiety it may be more than they can manage. Consider using see –through or opaque wrapping that allows peeking, or even no wrapping at all.

· Celebrate in your own way. Make some new traditions, find new ways to relax and spend time with loved ones. Make new memories to treasure.

Updated: Dec 3, 2019

Job interviews are often nothing to do with the role that the successful candidate will be undertaking. In the main, they are a social exercise to check you will fit with the panel’s idea of who they want, not a way of checking if you really have the skills for the day-to-day role.

For neuro-diverse people who interpret social cues and language differently to the neuro-typical majority, an interview can be an extremely difficult encounter. If it is your first time at an interview, it can be nerve-wracking if you don’t know what to expect. Only 32% of autistic adults are in any kind of employment and only 16% in full-time work. These statistics (gathered by Knapp, Romeo & Beecham for Kings College London) have been static for a decade.

London-based software designers Skills2Use have been working in partnership with a range of disability organisations, including Valuing Autism, to explore how candidates with additional needs can be better supported in the interview process. Their Interview Preparation app, available on Android and iOS devices, enables candidates to structure their preparation, identify transferrable skills and better understand the social conventions of the typical interview process. It brings together over 20 million hints and tips for a successful interview into one handy app that you can personalise, add notes and examples as you prepare to be offered your dream job.

The app tailors your preparation according to the industry and pathway you are pursuing – there are dedicated sections for apprenticeships, graduate job-seekers, internships and other job-seekers, covering 21 industry areas. There are also guides to preparing for group assessments and skills testing.

Skills2Use are a Disability Confident-Committed organisation, co-founded by a disabled person with other disabled people on the team.

If you are looking for work or supporting someone who is – perhaps as a teacher, careers advisor or job coach – this app could take your confidence to the winning level!

Your autistic child is unique and individual. Schools also come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, so learning about what’s out there is the key to choosing a school. There are many different options when it comes to education, and having an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan can broaden the options available to you and your family.

When choosing a school, it’s important to understand the different types. There are mainstream schools, where a broad range of children with and without additional needs are taught together, and there are specialist schools, where children may have a range of additional needs and the provision is tailored to meet these specific needs. There are maintained schools that are funded by your local authority and there are independent schools that charge tuition fees to parents/families. There are also Free Schools that are run by an organisation and funded by the Department for Education (DfE). Academies are also funded directly by DfE and have greater autonomy in terms of admissions and innovative education.

To get a general view of a school, you could start by having a look at their website. This should give you an idea of the type of school it is, how the school is structured, the curriculum they teach, the staff and their expertise well as their overall ethos. The Special Needs and Disability (SEND) Code of Practice for England and Wales states that maintained schools, maintained nurseries and academy schools must publish their policy for pupils with SEND on their website. The Code of Practice outlines the essential elements of the information that the school must provide, this includes:

  • · the kinds of SEND that are provided for

  • · how they identify, assess and support children/young people with SEND

  • · how they involve parents and young people in learning

  • · how they review the support they offer to individual pupils

  • · how they support learners to move between the phases of education, and in the secondary phase, how they support them to prepare for adult life

You may also like to have a look at their most recent Ofsted Inspection Report – you can search for a school by name or postcode

For a more informal approach, other parents and families will be able to tell you more about how their children are supported on a daily basis. It can also be helpful to visit a school and see their approach ‘in action’. Open Days are helpful as the other pupils will be present, or perhaps request an individual visit during normal school hours if you feel that would be more appropriate for your child. If you would like to take a friend, relative or a professional who supports your family along too, that’s fine.

Visit as many schools as you can, so that you can compare what is on offer and make an informed choice about what would be the best fit for your child. There are many aspects to consider but the first two questions are very easy!

1. Were you made to feel welcome as a parent/carer on your visit?

2. Did you get a positive response if you disclosed your child/young person’s autism diagnosis?

If you feel your answers are ‘Yes’ and you continue the visit, you may like to consider the following points to help get the conversation flowing:

  • · Does the school focus on my child’s strengths?

  • · Do the staff have autism experience and training?

  • · Is there key point of contact for you as a parent/carer?

  • · Does the environment promote all kinds of communication, not just speech? Can you see evidence of visual structures, such as timetables and symbols?

  • · Does the school value wellbeing as well as academic achievements?

  • · Are there any structured activities for break times, such as clubs?

  • · How does the school make adaptations to the environment to support sensory differences?

  • · How do staff support everyday transitions between activities? What about annual transitions to the next class/teacher and phase transitions to the next placement?

Trust your first impression and your instincts. You know your child better than anyone. If you arrive feeling welcome and leave feeling confident, then it is likely your child will too. So now make a second appointment and take your child/young person with you this time. If they like it too they will let you know!

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