James Sunderland MP for the Bracknell constituency took part in a National Autistic Society virtual Understanding Autism session on Tuesday 13 October where they learned more about autism, how autistic people have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak, and how to better support their autistic constituents.
There are around 700,000 autistic children and adults in the UK and a further three million family members and carers too. This means that around 1 in 100 people in each MP’s constituency are autistic.
The National Autistic Society believes that increasing MPs’ awareness and understanding of autism is a really important step in improving their ability to support and champion the issues that matter to autistic people, both in Parliament and in their constituencies. The charity’s ambition is for every MP to take part in a session before the end of this parliament. Over 80 MPs attended the first in-person sessions at Westminster last year, and the charity have since held a number of individual sessions for MPs and their staff in their constituencies.
The session was held in partnership with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism and run online by Helen Ellis, an autistic member of staff from the National Autistic Society. They noted how crucial it is for parliamentarians and their staff to be more aware of the challenges autistic people can face. James and his office agreed that with understanding, patience and sensitivity they could make a big difference to the way they support and represent their autistic constituents.
Autism is a lifelong disability that affects how people communicate and interact with the world. It is a spectrum condition. This means that while all autistic people share difficulties around communication and social interaction, they will face varying challenges and need different levels of support. This can range from 24-hour care to clearer communication and a little longer to do things at work or school.
James Sunderland said: “I was delighted to take part in the Understanding Autism session - and am grateful to the National Autistic Society and All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism for organising it.
“I am committed to representing everyone in the area and this of course includes autistic people and their families. I hope that this session will help me to better support and work alongside autistic people and families the Bracknell area.”
Caroline Stevens, Chief Executive at The National Autistic Society, said: "We were really pleased that James Sunderland MP took part in our virtual Understanding Autism session.
“One in 100 people are autistic and many face problems getting the right education, social and health care. This has been even harder during the coronavirus pandemic, which has had a profound affect on autistic children, adults and their families. So it’s vital that MPs have a good understanding of what it can be like to be autistic and how they can better support autistic constituents
“Our goal is for every MP to take steps towards understanding autism by doing one of our sessions before the end of this parliament. We believe this absolutely crucial in improving representation for autistic people and their families, and making sure they get the right support.”
For more information about autism, visit autism.org.uk