World Autism Awareness Day: Celebrating the diversity, strengths and talents of people with autism

World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) is an opportunity to celebrate people with autism and learn more about supports that assist people to thrive. Inclusion in the workplace is key to ensure people such as Richard, who attends a variety of services at Yooralla, have opportunities to nurture their strengths and talents. Yooralla’s supports help people with autism to reach their potential.

What is autism?

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disability where people may find communication challenging. Approximately one in a hundred Australians live with autism.

Every person with autism experiences the world in their own way. While some may experience difficulty with communication, others may have great strengths in their verbal skills.

People with autism may be highly tuned to their environment and process sensory input such as sound, touch, visual stimuli and scent in ways that can be overwhelming. Some may prefer a routine and find transition from one activity to another difficult, while others may prefer a relaxed and changeable day. Any challenge that a person with autism may experience can be worked through by understanding their needs.

WAAD is an opportunity for neurotypical people to take the time to learn more about autism. There are many resources to learn more about autism such as Amaze, the peak body for people living with autism in Victoria.

What is World Autism Awareness Day?

Officially endorsed by the United Nations, WAAD is designed to build acceptance for people with autism. The theme for this year’s WAAD is ‘Inclusion in the Workplace: Challenges and Opportunities in a Post-Pandemic World’.

COVID-19 has changed the way we engage with each other. Workplaces have seen accessibility considerations made available such as working from home and using technology to meet online. This has increased opportunities to create more inclusive and engaging spaces for people with autism.

Inclusion in the workplace

Workplaces that consider accessibility requirements for people with disability such as flexible hours or adjusting for people’s sensory needs benefit all staff.

One of Yooralla’s Senior Occupational Therapists, Kate Hill understands the importance of inclusive and accessible workplaces.

“Occupational Therapists can support people with autism to engage with employment by assisting them to identify workplaces that suit their individual needs and preferences,” said Kate.

“It is also essential to support capacity building for the individual and their workplace to ensure a good understanding of each other’s needs and expectations.”

Thriving with autism

Kate has seen positive examples where people with autism have thrived in workplaces.

“People with autism have many qualities that are highly sought after by workplaces. Successful outcomes are dependent on understanding strengths in the autistic person as well as identifying any supports required,” said Kate.

“Sometimes minor adjustments can be all that are required to create a work environment where a person with autism can shine.”

Building connections and skills for people with autism

Yooralla’s Community Hubs throughout Victoria support people with disability to pursue their goals by accessing skills-based learning, recreation and social activities.

Our pathways to employment programs offer the opportunity to explore goals relating to work and provide opportunities for training and also for work in supported employment.

Richard who identifies with the term ‘living with autism’ takes part in Yooralla’s programs at the Footscray Learning Hub, Macey Heights Hub and works in our ADE in Footscray.

“I am keen to access as many different activities as possible. I like variety. I want to have different opportunities to explore my interests,” said Richard.

Recognised for his strengths

Richard hopes people can understand the importance of including people with autism in social activities.

“It becomes easier to live with autism when you have friends to communicate and play with especially to go out to party. I want people to know I am a good person, I am a nice person, and I am keen to help people,” said Richard.

Attending Yooralla’s group programs have provided Richard with an opportunity to use his skills and talents and be recognised for his strengths.

“I love to draw, sign, make arts and crafts and most of all love helping people. All this brought me here to Yooralla,” said Richard.

The role of Occupational Therapists

Kate supports people with autism to develop their strengths and talents through a wide range of approaches such as utilising assessment tools to help identify how people process the world to assist with their sensory processing.

“By better understanding how people with autism experience the world, we can better modify the environment around them to be more supportive of their needs and more conducive to them thriving,” said Kate.

“People with autism all have their own unique strengths and talents and OTs are well equipped to help identify barriers that may be limiting their development and develop strategies to overcome these.”

The expert in his own life

Richard knows what he needs to help him feel safe, supported and respected in an environment.

“I always stay with the group. I also like listening to instructions. I feel best supported when people listen to me,” said Richard.

For more information on how Yooralla can support you to build new skills at our Community Hubs through programs such as job skills, please visit yooralla.com.au or contact Yooralla Connect 1800 966 725.

Join the Yooralla team. Find out more about working as an Occupational Therapist for Yooralla.

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