My daughter comes home from school talking about things she has learnt from her friend with autism. She tells me they are both doing well in maths and music and that even though they can’t have a spoken conversation, they share and learn a lot together.
This morning at a celebratory breakfast for autism, I was delighted to chat with parents with autistic children and some adults with an autism spectrum disorder. In particular I enjoyed the enthusiastic dissection of the cricket world cup.
University professor Temple Grandin, diagnosed with autism as a child, makes the case that the world needs people on the autism spectrum: visual thinkers, pattern thinkers, verbal thinkers, and all kinds of smart geeky kids.
However, kiwi kids with autism were not so long ago placed in institutions away from their families. Children with autism need the love of their family and the support of their community to thrive. Crucial to them achieving a good and happy life is for them to be included in school. When teachers draw on their normal teaching skills with confidence and their specialist skills, a child with a disability can be included successfully.
The United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities says all disabled people, including people with autism, have the right to be welcomed and supported into our families, schools, communities and workplaces.
The UN is hosting a forum on employment, called ‘Employment, the Autism Advantage’, which includes speakers from large global corporates, families, and people with autism. They recognise a strength-based attitude to difference and diversity.
Autism Day is being celebrated here through display of the rainbow colours – the symbol of diversity. Today is a day to include the difference.
As children’s author Dr Seuss says, “Today you are You that is truer than true. There is no one alive that is Youer than You.”