Inclusion Now 49

Autism and labelling

Alisha Adams, a young autistic woman, talks about the dangers of putting people into boxes

I am a young person with autism; my autism is a part of me but it does not define me. I know what it is like to have labels put on me. Like: “the naughty child”, “attention seeker”, “the disruptive one”.

People label us because they do not know how to react or what to say. It is not right; it makes people feel upset and ashamed to have those labels put on them.

But that is not the case. If people took a little bit of time to get to know me, they would realise that when I get the support I need and when people treat me with dignity, I am really a caring person. I would learn much quicker if people just took a little while to realise that I want to try hard and be successful in life, but I need some help to accomplish the goals that I set myself.

Not having the right support throughout education can give children and young people the labels of ‘the attention seeker’ or ‘the naughty child’ because they will not be able to excel in learning and get bored so they will try and get the attention of the teacher for the teacher to help them to understand what they need to do.

Some children and young people need to play with fidget toys (like fidget spinners or fidget cubes) in order to be able to concentrate for long periods of time. Also some children and young people need to be able to walk around because they can’t sit still for a long time: this can cause disruption in the classroom and be seen as the person just walking out of the situation when they are really self-regulating.

I feel that having the resources around me like fidget spinners, fidget cubes, blue tak and paper and coloured pencils can keep me focussed on the task that I need to do because if I am doing something with my hands I can concentrate better.

Don’t put the labels like “the naughty child”, “the disruptive one” or “attention seeker” on all children with autism or any other disability or impairment because we are not all the same; we are all unique and our own person.

Everyone is their own individual person so they should be treated as an individual. Life is about doing your best and if one person can accomplish more than another then don’t try and put them down because of that. Try to help us to succeed in what we are doing by encouraging us to try our best and telling us what we are doing well and not always what we are doing wrong or need improving.

Instead of labelling children and young people with autism try to understand that they have their own individual needs.

Just because a child or a young person does not have the diagnosis of autism or ADHD does not mean that they don’t have autism or ADHD it may just mean that they are good at hiding their issues and it has not been recognised.

I think that adults need to be trained in disability awareness and not just physical disabilities but hidden disabilities like autism, ADHD and dyslexia so that they can understand children and young people.

I think that schools and other environments should be more autism friendly because it will allow people with autism to access more environments in the community without getting stressed or anxious which could lead to challenging behaviours which could be hard to manage in a community space.

Alisha Adams