Perceptions: The Travelling Autism Workshop

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On the eve of Autism Awareness month we celebrate the learnings the Specialisterne NI team have gleaned from Perceptions: a travelling Autism workshop, which was part of DCAL’s Creativity month. Perceptions took our team to 5 colleges and universities to role play communication scenarios experienced by talented people on the Autistic Spectrum in NI colleges and workplaces. Careers, employability and lecturing staff at Belfast Metropolitan College, Ulster University (Jordanstown and Magee), Queen’s University, Belfast and South West College were introduced to 3 people on the Autistic Spectrum, all acted by professional actor Patrick Saunders. Participants heard what may lead to communication differences, and learnt ways of making communication more successful (with autistic/non-autistic students).

Our final workshop was with students on the Autistic Spectrum, which as usual defied all theory books and taught us more than we had opportunity to teach. We learnt that our talented group of animation, media and film studies students, if given the choice, would prefer to be in the team room pictured above. Participants shared that although communication is not always easy, it is still rewarding and interesting, and that we are so much more than what we speak.

The best advice we can give for Autism Awareness Month is:

  • be aware we all carry bias, its ingrained and hard to shake
  • when we meet someone who communicates differently, be prepared to adapt how you communicate first
  • be curious. After all, in the words of one of our participants: who would you rather be with, someone who just says what is expected, or someone who is an original thinker, who thinks outside of the box.

Perceptions develop through years of implicit teaching by society. The more Autistic company I keep the more mine are challenged, and the less useful ones shaken off.  If you would like to employ original thinkers at your company, contact sharond@specialisterne.com

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