Autism Acceptance Week

What does the word autism mean to you? What image does the term conjure up in your head? How would you define someone who is autistic?

[1] Autism (or Autistic Spectrum Disorder) diagnoses in children is have been on the increase in the past 80 years since it was first recognised. It affects social, communication and behavioural skills and [2] it is estimated that one in 36 children are autistic and that up to three quarters of young people with learning disabilities have autism. 

Since the Covid pandemic, there has been a 350% increase in children waiting for an autism diagnosis and [3] 80% of those on the ever-stretched CAMHS waiting list are there for autism-related referrals. Many of those living with autism find it harder to make friends, find employment or cope with mental health issues. [4] Only around a quarter of children on the autism spectrum say they feel happy at school, which is a sad reality to consider.

Every year at the start of April, [5] Autism UK recognises the fact that those with autism can feel misunderstood or discriminated against so the awareness week has been renamed ‘Autism Acceptance Week.’ 

The theme this year is colour, recognising that autism is complex, on a spectrum, and that no two people with autism are exactly the same. Autism is not on a linear line but is like a kaleidoscope with a myriad of characteristics and traits. Some children may present with social communication difficulties, while others may have sensory processing issues or repetitive behaviour. 

Autism can be especially complex in girls, as many girls with autism learn to ‘mask’ their traits from an early age, leading to underreporting of the autism. It is important for schools to work with parents, educators and other professionals to create an inclusive environment where children can use a diverse range of learning strategies to help them thrive and grow. 

Last year, I was asked to help one particular school during Autism Acceptance Week to deliver some assemblies to raise awareness for the pupils in the main school who did not know much about the autism that their peers in the ASD unit lived with. The special needs pupils in this large primary can spend up to half of their day integrating with the mainstream pupils in lessons, so it is important that all the children understand how to support and help their autistic peers with their learning and social skills. 

One way that many schools choose to do this is through using the [6] Zones of Regulation tool. This is a concept designed to help regulate emotional responses through the use of 4 coloured zones that students can move between by using a range of coping strategies to help them. The ideal is to be in the green zone for learning, while recognising that we can all be in the other zones from time to time and may need to find ways to calm down or be energized so we are able to focus and work again. It’s a concept that not only works for ASD children but all children who can struggle to regulate sometimes. 

In the new primary mental wellbeing materials being developed for Esteem lessons, there are a number of activities related to using the zones of regulation for educators to use with both mainstream pupils and those with SEND. Physical movement games for those in the blue zone, such as Zones of Regulation Twister can be played, or children can create calm breathing crafts and coping kits to help them out of the red or yellow zones. 

There are also some fantastic, animated Disney Pixar clips on YouTube which can help children observe what zone the characters might be in and to develop emotional empathy. Having a range of different activities to suit a range of learning styles can be particularly beneficial for neurodiverse pupils as traditional teacher-led learning may not always work for these children. 

Having a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) approach to education whereby multiple means of expression and engagement are used to support learners means that children can build their confidence and reach their potential. For example, some autistic children may have special talents for music, memory skills or art, and by providing opportunities to explore these unique abilities, educators can help them develop these skills and build their self-esteem. 

By learning to look at autism differently we celebrate individuals who have highly focused interests, such as people like [7] Greta Thunberg, who has spoken openly about her own autism diagnosis, calling it ‘a superpower.’ The condition has allowed her to focus on her passion of climate activism and to use that drive to raise awareness and create change. 

[8] Autism UK also has celebrity ambassadors such as wildlife expert and presenter Chris Packham, and the presenter and model Christine McGuiness, who have both spoken out about their own experiences of living with autism. Albert Einstein himself is believed to have been autistic, as noted by his behavioural traits, hyper-fixation and passion for mathematics and science. 

Perhaps we should start to see autism not as a flaw but as a unique aspect of human diversity. 

This can help us to consider how those with neurodiverse minds may then hone their interests and talents to succeed not in spite of their autism, but because of it. 

Representation also matters, so seeing other autistic children in picture books, TV shows and novels is something that can help children know that it is ok to have neurodiverse brains. The book Amazing Me, Amazing You by Christine McGuiness is one such lovely book that celebrates diversity and inclusivity, as is the book and TV series for older children, A Kind of Spark. The characters in the BBC drama are played by neurodivergent actors adding authenticity to the show and encouraging children to have autism spectrum role models to look up to. The show depicts the realities of stimming on one end of autism behaviour traits and masking on the other end, as well as showing how challenging life can be without a diagnosis, yet also celebrating the characters having exciting, vibrant storylines. 

This Autism Acceptance Week, why not embrace the theme of colour, and show the world that neurodiversity in all its forms should be celebrated? Each of us is different, but equally deserving of love, respect and friendship, and together we can create a kaleidoscopic world of unique creativity and possibilities. 


*If your school would like any free lessons for pupils with ASD or Inset sessions please contact



[2] (original data source:




[6] *Zones of Regulation, Leah Kuypers 2011