VIEW FROM THE HOUSE

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - OPINION - CHERYL GILLAN MP for Chesham & Amer­sham

MAK­ING autism a bet­ter-un­der­stood con­di­tion is some­thing which is close to my heart.

In the past few weeks I have been in­volved in ac­tiv­i­ties which re­flect the widely-dif­fer­ent ways in which work is be­ing done to in­crease aware­ness of autism.

The first week of April was of­fi­cially World Autism Aware­ness Week, but it also forms part of World Autism Aware­ness month and this shows that we all need to think about how peo­ple on the autis­tic spec­trum should be treated, wher­ever they may be.

One of the vis­its was to Feltham Young Of­fend­ers In­sti­tu­tion to mark the fact that this is the first prison to achieve ‘Autism Ac­cred­i­ta­tion’. HMYOI Feltham led the way in work­ing with the Na­tional Autis­tic So­ci­ety on a pi­lot project. The ac­cred­i­ta­tion demon­strates that the or­gan­i­sa­tion is both aware of and re­spon­sive to the needs of peo­ple with autism. The pi­lot has re­sulted in an­other three prisons work­ing to­wards ac­cred­i­ta­tion, with oth­ers now join­ing them and reg­is­ter­ing.

Recog­nis­ing the spe­cific needs of peo­ple with autism is re­ally im­por­tant and luck­ily we can all do some­thing to learn more about what to do to help. Re­cently at the House of Com­mons I was able to see ‘Too Much In­for­ma­tion’, a film pro­duced by the Na­tional Autis­tic So­ci­ety, which is filmed from the point of view of a ten year old boy with autism. Walk­ing through a shop­ping cen­tre is an over­whelm­ing sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ence which he finds painful and dif­fi­cult. Un­for­tu­nately what con­trib­utes to the sit­u­a­tion is the judg­men­tal at­ti­tude of some on­look­ers. The film con­cludes with the words: “I’m not naughty: I’m autis­tic.”

79% of autis­tic peo­ple and 70% of fam­i­lies feel so­cially iso­lated. As a re­sult as many as 50% of peo­ple with autism end up not go­ing out any­where, be­cause they are afraid of what peo­ple think and of the public re­ac­tion to them.

A three year cam­paign has be­gun with the aim of get­ting more peo­ple to learn more about autism. I have asked the Prime Min­is­ter, in Par­lia­ment, to sup­port the cam­paign and I would also like to ask you to sup­port it too. If you put ‘Too Much In­for­ma­tion’ + autism+ YouTube into your search en­gine, you can see the film for your­self.

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