Autism Awareness Week (29 March – 4 April)

To mark Autism Awareness Week 2021, the PDA is calling on employers to raise awareness, engage and understand autism and encourage their employees to learn more so that positive changes can be achieved in workplaces. The PDA is also encouraging members to reflect on what they can do to raise awareness of autism.

Tue 30th March 2021 The PDA

Members can find out more by speaking to people they know such as family members, friends or colleagues who have autism. The National Autistic Society is also available to offer information and advice. It’s a helpful time to have conversations, to listen and to understand what small things we can all do to make our world and indeed our workplaces more autism-friendly.

“Increasing awareness around the autism spectrum and the positives it can bring to the workplace have been making life easier for others like me, but we still have a long way to go to be able to say we have fully inclusive and diverse workplaces, even in healthcare professions,” said Jenny Kell, a PDA member, Primary Care Pharmacist and a member of the PDA Ability Network.

Jenny continued: “As a health professional who is autistic, reading a recent article on Emerging Neurodivergent Identities by Kirsty Forbes, where the writer discussed Pathological Demand Avoidance, was a real eye-opener to me. For years I have avoided the suggestion that one of my autistic traits may be Pathological Demand Avoidance. The word pathological for starters made me feel it was saying ‘not capable’. I was fighting to keep my career going through the various hiccups my autism and associated anxiety caused me, and the last thing I wanted was another stigma to my name.

Kirsty’s beautifully written article made me appreciate that its name may scare me, but its symptoms are real things I face every day; from finding roles where I manage my own time much less anxiety-provoking, to the constant reflecting on every conversation I have for hours afterwards trying to ascertain if I said/did the right thing. The fine line between excitement and fear blurring on an everyday basis.

Pathological Demand Avoidance as outlined in the article by Kirsty Forbes is when we are not always consciously choosing or deciding a course of action but following a neurobiological response to compensate for a perceived loss of control. It is a powerful inherent protective factor for a person who requires extreme autonomy and is autodidactic by nature. If their autonomy is compromised then their anxiety levels rise to an extreme state where they appear to be grasping for control over people, places, and things.

After reading the article I have made a vow to myself to give myself a bit more leeway. I can see that putting less pressure on myself will make me more capable, not less, as well as helping me be happier professionally and personally. I hope my sharing and writing about the article and my reaction to it may help someone else in understanding and accepting themselves, a colleague or another person in their life.”

Caroline Stevens, Chief Executive of the National Autistic Society, said: “World Autism Awareness Week coincides with the lockdown easing. This is a unique opportunity to rebuild society in a way that works better for autistic people. Many things need to change if we’re to create a society that works for autistic people, starting with the Government making sure its upcoming all-age autism strategy (England) is ambitious and properly funded. Better understanding of autism across society, from schools to workplaces and decision-makers in local and national government, would transform hundreds of thousands of lives.”

Daniela Rusalim, Advanced Pharmacist Practitioner, IP and NAWP Vice-President, added: “We know that just 15% of adults with autism are currently in employment and yet their unique abilities are invaluable in many workplaces, such as being detail-oriented and focused.”

Collette Bradford, PDA Director of Organising & Engagement, said: “We all know that employers have responsibilities to make reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities, including those with autism. We also know that having a diverse workforce reflective of our communities brings significant benefits to business and especially to healthcare settings.”

PDA members and reps, including those in the PDA Ability Network, are raising awareness of autism in their workplaces and by doing so are helping to improve the working lives of patients, pharmacists and pharmacy teams.

Get Involved

  • For more information and to join the PDA Ability Network click here.
  • Talk to your colleagues about Autism Awareness Week and what you can do to make your workplace more autism friendly for colleagues and patients.

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