Why there need to be more autistic characters in children’s books

3 children sitting reading books

The children’s writer Michael Morpurgo has written a new novel inspired by his autistic grandson, which is set to be published later this year. Flamingo Boy is set in the Camargue in the south of France during World War II and features a boy who “sees the world differently”.

Morpurgo explained how it didn’t occur to him to write a book about autism until his grandson was born, which isn’t totally surprising – as autistic characters in books are few and far between.

Fiction plays a significant role in shaping how people understand and respond to autism. And in this way, books are often used by both schools and parents to help children and young people understand more about autism.

2017 was a great year for autism-inspired TV

Chris Packham and his black curly-haired dog

 Chris Packham, whose programme Asperger’s and Me
was one of last year’s TV highlights for Ann Hickman.
Photograph: Richard Ansett/BBC

Ann Hickman

As a parent with two out of three children on the autistic spectrum, I nodded with many points by Jem Lester (Seen Rain Man? That doesn’t mean you know my son, Family, 30 December). However, despite the common feelings around having our verbal and non-verbal autistic kids, I feel that actually 2017 provided plenty of great autism-inspired TV.

Autistic people aren't really accepted – and it’s impacting their mental health

Up to 70% of autistic people experience mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, according to some research. Unfortunately, we still don’t know why autistic people are at a higher risk for mental health problems than non-autistic people. But one important factor is whether an individual’s autism is recognised and accepted by those around them.

How do you solve the trickiest problems in the workplace? Employ more autistic people

man behind desk looking into camera

Neurodiversity can be a huge advantage for companies, yet people on the spectrum have often been marginalised. Now some firms are specifically seeking them out. Is this a crucial turning point?

Five minutes from London’s Liverpool Street station is an office that looks like any other office in the tech industry: the decor is 21st century, pristine; takeaway coffee cups are omnipresent; most people under 30 are in casualwear. Just about everyone seems to be either staring at a smartphone, tapping at a laptop, or sprinting to their next appointment.

The company I’ve come to visit is called Auticon, an award-winning IT business. As well as the staff in the office, it employs 15 IT consultants who spend most of their time working elsewhere for companies such as pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, the credit rating agency Experian, and Allianz Insurance. But there is a fascinating twist: all of the 15 are autistic, and have been given their jobs after long spells of unemployment – not out of charity or sympathy, but a deep appreciation of the attributes they bring to their work.

School exclusion ‘linked to long-term mental health problems’ – study

Jamie Doward

Research shows that exclusions can amplify pupils’ psychological distress and encourage behaviour it intends to punish.

Excluding children from school may lead to long-term psychiatric problems and psychological distress, a major new study has shown.

The research by the University of Exeter also finds that poor mental health can lead to school exclusion.

Why It Took 35 Years To Diagnose My Autism

When I was four-years-old a speech therapist told my mother that my inability to speak would right itself. Her GP told her not to worry about my severe sleep problems and that I was simply a fussy eater for only eating jam sandwiches and yogurt.

The self-harm and eating disorder I developed as a teen was put down to depression and when I tried to end my life aged eighteen, I was called selfish by the nurse who pumped my stomach.


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