Northern Ireland is heading to the polls in a snap election on the 2nd March. We last had an election in May 2016. In the run up to this election, I asked every political party, what will they do to improve services. I was met with a considerable amount of head scratching and some cobbled together answers about increasing diagnosis.
What quickly became apparent was that, in the process of formulating policy about Autism, no party engaged with anyone who is Autistic. There was little attempts to ask Autistics what they felt they needed. This surprised and infuriated me in equal measure. How can you know what is best for someone without engaging with them?
When parties sit down to start writing their manifesto, and when it comes to Autism, I want to throw down a challenge to them.
Talk to people on the Spectrum. Ask them about their experiences. Ask them where they feel the system is failing them. Ask them what they would like to see introduced. Ask them how they feel on particular approaches to solutions.
In the past, we have engaged with doctors, parents, teachers, and other professionals, but never the Autistic person. And that is an approach that is never going to work. We have seen a huge increase in recent years about awareness of mental health, and how it is good to talk about it. I would like to offer a challenge to all candidates and parties that are standing for election.
When it comes to Autism, talk to an Autistic Adult. find out where we feel the system is failing. We are the ones who experience the system, and are damaged by its failings. We want to be involved with the process of improving our support and our access to services, but we need you to engage with us.
This is an open invitation to any prospective election candidate, or any political party. Talk to us.