Updated: Feb 22
Autism spectrum disorder is a condition that affects the way people behave, socialize, and communicate with others. Research findings have highlighted persistent racial disparities in autism prevalence.
Research has also shown a lack of conversation being had around autism in ethnic minority groups. Reasons vary from lack of awareness and knowledge around the condition, pre-existing stigmas and stereotypes, fear of asking questions and a lack of representation in the media.
Many people with autism from ethnic minority backgrounds struggle with getting a diagnosis, overcoming barriers to accessing support services and communicating
awareness and understanding of autism within their communities.
Judith Turkson-Baidoo is a programme Coordinator for School Leadership and Chronic Illness Champion at Teach First. Today she shares with us at Several Seats, her experience as Black woman with Autism.
1.What is your greatest achievement in life?
My greatest achievement in life is becoming more transparent as much as possible with myself and being the person, I should have been growing up.
2. What was it like growing up? Tell us more about your lived experience
My lived experience with Autism has been very difficult as I always felt different from people no matter the environment I am in. Before Primary Education, I was diagnosed with Speech and Language Disorder which is very common in Autistic people. This meant that I didn’t understand communication or body language very well. Being an innocent child, I was very creative and playful however I do remember playing by myself all the time. When I was about 10, I noticed that I really was different in terms of my behaviour and I would start masking my own behaviour so I can fit in and be “normal”. As a teenager I wasn’t very open about my Autism and unfortunately was targeted and bullied by people in my secondary school year which made me feel very isolated. On top of this, I experienced personal issues outside the school environment which led me to a very bad place for a while. I was impacted by sensitivity to noise where there could be sirens, train noises and fireworks. This may not be as severe now but when I was an infant I was frightened.
3. What are some of the barriers (if any) with accessing support in the service as a woman of colour?
The barriers for people like myself being a Black woman is that I feel very misunderstood by people.
Barriers are row of blocks which makes it difficult to get the help and support I need. Unfortunately, there isn’t much support to provide Adult autistics as well with children. This is due to funds being cut but this shouldn’t justify any reason to be left in the dark. Woman of Colour and woman in general I personally don’t think we are taken as seriously. It’s sometimes very exhausting for me to explain how my Autism affects me on a daily basis and there are moments where people would think I am being too dramatic when in reality I am being passionate about Autism.
4. How can we raise awareness and understanding of autism within the black community?
This is simply doing research on what the black community experience and sadly parents of Autistics may have limited understanding because they never came across the term back in their home country for example. Some black communities are in denial and believe prayers will solve the problem, yet they may not actively do their own research to support.
So, to support autism within the Black community, webinars or talks can be created in a way where barriers can be broken and the community can be open without feeling shame.
5. What advice would you give to your younger self?
The advice I would give to my younger self is that it’s okay to be different and to be true to myself. Some may not accept you but there are others who will.
6. Spotlight Mentions!
I have a poetry and quote page called @speaktothepaper on Instagram. Please check it out!
Help and Support - Help and support (autism.org.uk)