‘World Autism Awareness Week is a really good way of introducing people to the condition, but you can’t change perceptions by being generic’ – an interview with Henry Green
Ahead of World Autism Day on Sunday 2 April, we sat down to speak with UCW student Henry about learning with autism and his approaches to higher education. The conversation also came about after Henry impressed everyone with an informative and interesting talk he recently gave to UCW academic staff about his experiences of degree-level study at UCW.
Hi Henry, what are you studying and why did you choose the subject?
“I’m in the first year of the Tourism Management Foundation Degree. I studied tourism at Level 3 so it seemed like a natural progression for me. The course is also really good in terms of general preparation – it includes ICT, writing skills, a bit of everything really. Studying on the Foundation Degree is also helping my personal development.”
So, aside from having studied at Weston College, was there anything else that made you want to study at UCW?
“Carrying on here was the best thing for me in a lot of ways as I can work on the areas I want to develop in lectures, while also attending support sessions for my specific needs alongside my studies. Another thing is to do with sensory awareness. I can be really aware of everything going on around me, and if being in a really loud or busy place gets a bit too much then I can go for a walk along the seafront.”
How does autism affect how you learn?
“I’ve never really had a problem with English so I’d say I probably prefer to listen to a lecture, write it all down and then absorb the information. There are lots of other parts of studying, though, like participating effectively and getting involved. I’m finding that when I’m thrown into something, I try and don’t give up, so it is more about working out the risk factors and then how best to respond them.”
And what about the support UCW provides?
“The support specific to me is the most useful, especially discussing and tackling issues directly. I’ve had situations in the past when there was an assumption that everybody with learning difficulties must be the same, and these cut-out interpretations of so many different issues. It was really annoying and didn’t really help me. At Weston College and now UCW, I have weekly sessions with Mel Tacchi [UCW’s Specialist Practitioner in Autism]. We work on autism-related issues, but also on how to move forward in areas such as planning and organisation, and socialisation strategies. It also involves things like reflective writing and getting over the fear of the thought processes that certain situations can cause.”
You’ve spoken about the importance of working with people on their individual needs, so how do you feel about big campaigns like World Autism Awareness Week?
“Autism is obviously an important issue and World Autism Awareness Week is a good way to introduce people to autism and encourage them to find out more about it. But it is also really important that people know that that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to learning difficulties.”
Thanks so much for talking to us Henry!