Guide to making youth groups inclusive
There are many reasons for this. Compared to the structure and routine of school, youth groups can be a scary and unpredictable environment – and without the right support, autistic young people can struggle to feel accepted.
To try and change this Ambitious about Autism’s Youth Council have developed the Include Autism toolkit to improve the connection between youth group leaders and autistic young people. The resource also includes information for parents and young people themselves, so they can use the toolkit to start conversations that will increase accessibility.
I’d like to explain why some of these small changes are so important.
Support right from the start
As I’ve mentioned, joining a youth group can be a very daunting experience for someone with autism, so it’s important to make people feel welcome and included the moment they walk through the door. For autistic youth group members, this could mean giving them a tour around the facilities – preferably before everybody else gets there. Offering a new member a buddy is also a really good idea – this person could be another young member or a leader. Buddies can answer any questions the person might have and assist them in any youth club activities.
Youth clubs can be very loud especially when the activities are in full swing. Some autistic people might find this overwhelming so having a quiet space they can go to is really important. Some youth groups already do this – and some even have multi-sensory rooms made for autistic people, so they can feel calm and experience new things.
Some people find it easy to understand complicated instructions but not everyone does and some autistic people can fall under this category. So speaking in a straightforward, clear and literal way is really important. It’s also important to remember that not all autistic people communicate in the same way – some may feel more comfortable using assistive technology such as iPads to express their thoughts.
There are already many youth groups that are very accessible and have lots of strategies in place to make autistic young people feel welcome. We hope that our new Include Autism toolkit will continue to make a difference and ensure all young autistic people are able to join the youth group of their choice.
About the author
Solmaz is Ambitious about Autism’s Marketing and Communications Intern. She loves writing, and also has interests in music, technology and beauty products.