Birmingham has a wide and varied population, and is home to a diverse mixture of communities from around the world. Autism is a condition found across all cultures, therefore it is essential that awareness is raised amongst all communities, in order to promote a factual understanding of, and empathy for, autistic people. For the last few years, Birmingham Local Authority’s Communication and Autism Team has been attempting to create links with a range of ethnic communities across the city, in an attempt to raise awareness of autism, thereby increasing a general understanding of the condition. There are many ways of developing positive relationships with the various different groups living in Birmingham, such as running coffee mornings, parent courses and visiting community/religious centres.
How we created links with Birmingham’s Islamic communities:
In July 2019, we contacted one of our local mosques in Birmingham (Green Lane), as they had expressed an interest in liaising with Birmingham’s Communication and Autism Team in order to develop awareness of autism amongst their staff and educators. After a productive meeting, my colleague Zoe Atzori and I arranged a date to deliver AET Tier 1 (Making Sense of Autism) to key staff at the mosque. This was carried out in September 2019, in preparation for the academic year ahead. We were amazed at the response! In addition to educators and staff working at the mosque, we were joined by parents and members of the community, numbering about eighty people in total. They were an enthusiastic, attentive and engaged audience who clearly were committed to increasing their knowledge of autism, and learning how to support the autistic members of their community. After the training session, we were inundated with questions and requests for more information or training in the future. It was probably one of the most successful and productive Tier 1 sessions we have ever delivered!
As a consequence of this successful training session, we were invited back to the mosque in January 2020, to host a parents’ coffee morning. The reception we had was incredible – about seventy parents attended and participated enthusiastically in the two-hour session, where we delivered a presentation entitled ‘Introduction to Autism’. We couldn’t have asked for a more engaged and proactive audience, and the mosque was welcoming and friendly, as always!
What was the outcome?
The feedback from these two sessions was overwhelmingly positive; from educators who said it had increased their understanding of, and ability to support, their autistic pupils, through to parents who stated that they now felt more confident and empowered to support their children at home.
We have planned to hold further sessions at the mosque, and will continue to approach other religious or cultural centres in our ongoing attempt to raise awareness of autism across the city.
Written by Catherine Mohan