World Autism Acceptance Week 2023
We’re committed to creating a positive culture right across our business, a culture that embraces, values and celebrates individual differences. Our diversity and inclusion networks work to support our vision, running open forums and initiatives all year round.
Our Diversability network is in place to help us all understand seen and unseen disabilities, and what impact it can have on our customers and our colleagues.
To mark this year’s World Autism Acceptance Week we hear from Emma and Laura, two of our Diversability network members who kindly share their experiences:
Here’s Emma’s story in her own words:
“In March 2021, the thing I was scared of most was to hear that my daughter, Nola, was autistic. Flash forward a year and I felt the opposite. My initial fear was because my knowledge and understanding of autism was incorrect, dated and based on awful stories from the internet. Once I understood more about autism and I knew it was likely Nola was autistic, I just wanted to know what we were facing.
Nola was like any other typical beautiful baby. She met all her milestones and I was a proud mum showing off lots of videos of her rolling over to saying her first words. Then all of a sudden, around 15 months old, I noticed things started to change and over the next six to nine months it became more apparent that Nola was different. Not only was she not moving forward and attaining new skills, but she had also regressed in some of her previously learnt skills, specifically with her speech and communication.
From then on, we went through multiple appointments, assessments and therapy sessions to the point of her receiving a diagnosis.
Life can be tough some days. As she gets older the challenges she faces become more significant. She struggles to switch off and can experience sensory overload very easily. But we also have these beautiful moments. I have never seen anyone look at the sky, a tree or a puddle with such genuine fascination and get so much enjoyment from them. She notices things we don't even think about and she will try and share them with me in her own way.
Anything I can tell you today about autism and the struggles we face is mostly due to the world around us. Autism is not a problem that needs fixing because it is not a deficiency. Simply put, Nola's brain is wired differently – it’s not damaged. She sees the world differently and interacts with it in a different way. Things are generally set up with a neurotypical person in mind, from the way we communicate to learning and life skills.
That's why being a part of the Diversability network at LV= is so important to me. I want my daughter to have the same opportunities as others and eliminate these unnecessary barriers that could make life difficult for her. I want her to live in a world that doesn't just accept her neurodivergence but embraces, celebrates and recognises the different skills it could bring. A big part of this is supporting our neurodiverse colleagues today by making sure we acknowledge and fully include them. It's also about supporting colleagues that are caring for or raising neurodiverse individuals. Being open and honest with my manager and team about our life has made things so much easier. They are a very supportive team and give me the flexibility to be there for Nola when I need to be.
Autism is a spectrum. People experience it differently and what they find difficult other people might not. Every autistic person is different and unique…like we all are.”
Here’s Laura’s story in her own words:
“Growing up with a younger sister with autism taught me so much. There are so many misconceptions around neurodiversity, many of which weren’t corrected until I was older and able to understand. Growing up in the 1990s meant there was so little information and any information available was usually shrouded in myths/falsehoods. Here are my top five misconceptions:
1. People with autism will never lead a ‘normal’ life. I can’t even begin to explain how many times I saw my sister written off because she wasn’t neurotypical. From fellow children, to teachers and doctors. It was painful to watch.
2. People with autism can’t make eye contact. In the same way that not every neurotypical person CAN make eye contact. Autism varies case by case, it’s a spectrum.
3. People with autism are violent. Just like neurotypical people, neurodivergent people can be violent but that isn’t true in most cases. Neurodivergent people get painted as being aggressive and who can’t control their emotions. As a child, my sister faced isolation because of this.
4. People with autism aren’t clever. Because of the lack of knowledge, my sister experienced little education and support. People thought it was ‘too hard’ to teach her. Neurodivergent people learn in a non-typical way often standardised testing isn’t suitable, but this is also the case for neurotypical people.
5. Vaccines caused autism. This is a dangerous piece of misinformation. The study in the 1990s that ‘proved’ this has since been debunked and the doctor was written off - yet this information is still accepted by a lot of people. You cannot catch or become autistic.
I’m so proud of the progress the world has made in understanding neurodivergence and truly love seeing doors opening instead of being closed. This is why I like being part of our Diversability network as we're actively working towards making a difference to our neurodiverse colleagues, as well as those with family members that they may be caring for.”