Matthew has attended the National Autistic Society’s first ever Understanding Autism session. Matthew was one of 82 MPs who attended one of three sessions on 1 May, receiving more information on what autism is, guidance on how to create autism-friendly surgeries and tips on how to support autistic constituents.
There are around 700,000 autistic children and adults in the UK, a significant proportion of every MP’s constituency. The National Autistic Society believes that increasing MPs’ awareness and understanding of autism is an important step to improving their ability to support and champion the issues that matter to autistic people in their constituencies and in Parliament too. The charity was delighted that so many MPs attended and will be working with them to ensure support improves for autistic people at both local and national levels.
The sessions were run by four National Autistic Society staff, two of whom are autistic. The Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism (APPGA), the Rt Hon Dame Cheryl Gillan MP, who hosted the session, noted how crucial it is for parliamentarians to be more sensitive and aware of the challenges autistic people can face. Lots of the MPs who were there agreed that with kindness, patience and sensitivity they could make a big change to the way they support their autistic constituents.
Autism is a lifelong disability that affects how someone communicates and sees, hears and feels the world around them. It is a spectrum condition. This means autistic people have their own strengths and varying and complex needs, from 24-hour care to simply needing clearer communication and a little longer to do things at work and school.
Matthew said: “I was delighted to attend the Understanding Autism session and grateful to the National Autistic Society for organising it. As a Member of Parliament, I come in to contact with many constituents every week - including individuals on the autistic spectrum. I feel that after this session, I am more knowledgeable of the challenges facing my autistic constituents."
Anna Bailey-Bearfield, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at the National Autistic Society, said: "We were really pleased to see Matthew Offord attend our charity's first ever Understanding Autism session for MPs.
"It’s really encouraging to see MPs like Matthew want to learn more about how to support their autistic constituents, as they play a really important role in helping to create a world that works for autistic people."