The Guardian view on autism awareness: recognising diverse talents – and needs | Autism

“ANDYou are underwater and responsible for 100 people and a nuclear reactor. You work in an environment that is fundamentally difficult, ”the second British Sea Lord said recently of his previous role as commander of a nuclear submarine. “If you make a mistake, you will sink and you will die, and everyone else will … the focus and ability to handle the complexity of this operation was something I was naturally comfortable with and reasonably comfortable with was good. “

Nick Hine explained why he thinks his autism made him a better naval officer. Neurological condition affects social interaction, but manifests itself in strikingly different and complex ways in each individual. Some require full-time support and care. Others see it as a difference rather than a disability and refer to their abilities and skills, such as B. Deep concentration and resilience to peer pressure. In his recent book The Pattern Seekers, Simon Baron-Cohen – an influential, albeit controversial, expert on autism – argues that people with “hyper-systematizing minds” focused on precision, detail, and systems drove the evolution of civilization and that there was a significant overlap between innovators and autistic people. Ignoring those with the condition wastes talent and risks the groupthink that comes from hiring people whose minds work the same way.

The main cost of such a narrow view is of course borne by autistic people themselves. On Monday, the start of Autism Awareness Week, new research found that more children are autistic in England than previously thought: around one in 57 children, due to a global increase, believed to be largely due to improved recognition is. While only about a third have learning difficulties, many more will have problems at school. The National Statistics Bureau states that only one in five autistic adults is employed. Changing this requires not only realizing their skills, but also adapting work environments, practices and expectations.

However, autistic people should not be valued only when they are seen as “productive”. This year has shown how far we are from literally accepting neurodiversity. Autistic people were among those who were placed under the blanket “Do not resuscitate” order due to their secrecy or their consent due to Covid. The Care Quality Commission found in December that such evidence had resulted in potentially preventable deaths. Basic social welfare that many families relied on disappeared. While elderly people in nursing homes were prioritized for vaccination, younger people with learning disabilities, some of whom were autistic, had to wait much longer, although the death rate among them was shown to be up to six times higher than the general population in the first wave from Covid-19. Research done before the pandemic suggested two out of three autistic adults were not getting the support they needed, and the public spending watchdog is now warning that devastating cuts in services are likely if the financial crisis worsens Rates tightened.

To promote neurodiversity, one must not only celebrate people who are able to thrive in a world developed by and for neurotypes, but also support those who are severely affected. Needless to say, autistic people are valuable, not because their autism can make them useful to society, improve business performance, or advance science – but because they are people.

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