Autism – Removing Barriers to Education
A huge congratulations to Nigel Borg who at 18 years of age and living with ASD had the privilege to address the Congress of United Nations in Geneva Switzerland on removing barriers to education for young people with autism. Nigel is also a cousin of ONCALL’s Director Anna Fleming who is extremely proud of his achievements and leadership. Nigel represented Malta.
Nigel spoke about his own experience with autism and the issue of removing barriers to education for young people with autism. He highlighted several issues within the education system he thinks could be changed to help remove barriers to education.
Wearing uniforms can be extremely uncomfortable for children with ASD. In schools where a uniform is a mandatory requirement, Nigel believes more should be done to fully comprehend the sensory needs of those children with autism. He emphasized the importance of schools actively making efforts to fully understand what would be more comfortable for children with autism and aim to provide practical solutions.
Education for Teachers
Nigel also expressed the importance of further educating teachers on approaches to dealing with the presentation of different behaviours of children with autism and understanding the function of the behaviour. He stated that reasons for certain behaviours such as forgetting homework or arriving late to school are often different and harder to overcome for children with Autism. He highlighted the fact that shouting and aggressive reactions to such behaviours should also be avoided when dealing with children as they typically enhance fear rather than discipline.
Classroom settings were also identified as a barrier to education. A classroom setting often causes sensory overload and can be extremely distracting for children with ASD, limiting their potential to learn. Nigel believes offering different spaces for learning such as quiet rooms and one-to-one sessions would help to remove this barrier to education.
Nigel recognised that certain efforts have already been made to help reduce some barriers to education, but emphasized that more changes need to happen now, not in the future, in order to unlock the potential and opportunities for new generations.
While Nigel’s observations are based on his personal experience with the Maltese education system, the points he makes are just as relevant for education systems throughout the world, including Australia. It is great that the United Nations provided such a public platform as part of World Autism Awareness Day to highlight the diverse needs of those on the Autism spectrum.
You can watch Nigel’s full address here (13:30-18:30).
World Autism Awareness Day is an internationally recognized day on 2 April every year, encouraging Member States of the United Nations to take measures to raise awareness about people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) throughout the world. It was designated by the United Nations General Assembly resolution “62/139.