Autism Awareness Week – the ‘Rights Approach’

To coincide with National Autism Awareness Week here are several comments from academics who specialise in researching autism. They were asked what one thing would they like to change in schools to help children who are autistic:

Nick Hodge, Professor of Inclusive Practice, Sheffield Hallam University:

‘The Rights Approach for Autism’

“The world of Autism is at war (Drezner 2011; Ortega et al 2016).  It is split into two key opposing camps. On one side are those who seek a cure for autism and to push those children already affected as far towards ‘normal’ as possible. On the other side are those who view autism as a manifestation of human difference and focus on identifying and removing the environmental and social barriers that prevent those diagnosed as autistic from accessing opportunities and achieving their aspirations.

Parents, carers and practitioners are left bewildered, caught between the two camps, unsure on which side to position themselves and how best to support the autistic child. The Rights Approach for Autism provides a safe route through the battlefields by helping the autism community to evaluate which philosophies and approaches might be most enabling for autistic children and young people (Hodge 2017). Based on the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN 2006), a human rights treaty devised with the collaboration of disabled people, The Rights Approach for Autism asks all who support autistic people to pledge to protect the dignity of autistic children and young people, to protect them from the violence of intrusive interventions, bullying and abuse and to value equally autistic ways of being.”


Drezner, T. (2011) Loving Lampposts: Living Autistic. DVD. Cinema Libre Studio

Hodge, N. (2017) Developing the Rights Approach for Autism. Accessed at

Ortega, F., Zorzanelli, R. and Rios, C. (2016) ‘The biopolitics of autism in Brazil’. in K. Runswick-Cole, R. Mallett and S. Timimi (eds) Re-thinking autism: diagnosis, identity and equality. London: Jessica Kingsley

Dr Debra Costley, Associate Professor Education, School of Education, University Of Nottingham:

“I would like to see all teachers given the opportunity to learn about some of the simple changes they can make to their classroom organisation and teaching methods to make schools more accessible and autism friendly.

I would like to see all schools implement a form of peer education that would raise awareness, understanding and acceptance of all children whatever their individual differences.”


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