CU Leader Resources

Making your CU accessible - autism

The media stereotypes surrounding autism might lead you to be unsure how an autistic student will fit into your group.  But rest assured, many of these stereotypes are far wide of the mark.  One slogan proclaims, 'I’m autistic- what’s your superpower?' and it’s true that there are many strengths to the autistic way of viewing the world.  An autistic CU member is likely to be loyal and committed and might well prove to have excellent ability in areas such as record keeping, whether membership lists or your CU’s finances.  They may well be very open and honest about their feelings, and, contrary to the popular caricature, very empathetic towards other people too.

Autism is a lifelong developmental condition affecting how a person communicates with, and relates to, people around them. The National Autistic Society reports that approximately one person in every hundred is on the autistic spectrum. People with autism find difficulty in relating to others in a conventional way. Their ability to develop friendships and to understand other people’s feelings can be impaired. Some people with autism have general learning disabilities, but everyone with the condition shares a difficulty in making sense of the social world. However, many autistic people have enhanced abilities in areas such as attention to detail and ability to apply themselves to a problem, and this can make them excellent students, employees and friends.

There is a wide range of autism spectrum conditions, ranging from severe autism, where the person will have very little ability to communicate, to high-functioning autism, one specific condition of which is Asperger Syndrome, where the person may have a normal or high intellectual capability.  Many autistic people find eye contact difficult.   Facial expressions are a mystery so remember to explain in words what your facial expression is saying. Other common features are repetitive behaviour, fixated interests and resistance (often accompanied by distress) to changes in routine.

Additional Resources – See the website of the National Autistic Society for further information. 

This resource is part of our Accessible CU series, created especially for Christian Unions by Through The Roof, a Christian Disability charity. To read this article in full, and other articles on including disabled students, download the student version of Through the Roof's publication Be a Roofbreaker for just £3.


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