And so another ‘awareness day’ is here! It’s inception coincides with the year my precious boy was born. I used to push it every year like a good member of the autistic community, but have come to realise that a few balloons and bunting once a year simply does not cut it. Throughout Andy’s childhood services and support have become scarce and are almost impossibly difficult to access.
So often these type of events are a high profile, noncommittal and cheap option for those who make a living from autism or who require to be seen as doing something.
I am sorry if my sentiments on this matter upset the genuine people truly trying to support those with autism but in recent years in my role of supporting and representing autistic people and families the situation for so many has become unacceptable.
Don’t misunderstand me I work tirelessly to promote autism awareness every day and recognise the significance of promoting awareness. It’s a slow, tiring journey, very often characterised by one step forward, two back.
In Argyll our ‘autism strategy ‘ was given life support by the Scottish Government’s Autism Network barely 3 years ago. It had paralleled the picture nationally as a damp squib and fizzled out. Gesture politics at its best- lots of talk and fanfare – no action. Against my better judgement I participated in our relaunched ‘strategy ‘. As a parent I addressed the first meeting with an impassioned plea for real change. New folk got the top jobs on top salaries and made empty promises. Many have now moved on to new pastures.
The bright young government minister at the time wrote to inform me of the changes and impact that was coming. My MSP fell out with me regarding my doubts. Services were cut and specialist social workers were never reinstated. Vague , not fit for purpose policy flooded our lives and actually were obstructing assessments and support allocation.
The new local strategy was chiefly concerned with writing our own ‘strategy ‘. It turned out like the national strategy- some meaningless words on paper. Now lying abandoned. New ‘Named Persons ‘ were often overloaded and out of their depth. CAHMS has continued as the joke most autism parents know it to be. A new Carers Act that restricts rather than promotes real supports like respite arrived. Many authorities even gave out goody bags with pens, rulers, leaflets and stress relieving squeeze balls to celebrate!
Quite simply it is wrong and duplicitous of service providers , politicians and organisations to celebrate autism one day a year with tat while doing nothing of any significance to help and if that pisses on your parade, then stop and think about it.
Here is my offer for autism awareness day in Argyll- I once again extend the offer of a completely free autism awareness session for all the Argyll and Bute councillors. I’ll keep asking. Just let me know when you are ready.