“Seeing the light in things other people don’t notice.”

“Seeing the light in things other people don’t notice.”

It’s an enlightening phrase and one which Marion McLaughlin, CEO of Autism Understanding Scotland uses to explain the charity’s mission to help people find the positives in autism.

Marion, like over 85% of the charity’s team, is herself autistic and is mother to an autistic child. She knows just how many negative connotations come with an autistic diagnosis.

“Doctors delivering an autism diagnosis often lean forward and in a sympathetic voice tell the parents, ‘I’m sorry, but your child is autistic’.  How negative is that?

“We welcome children, teenager, adults and parents with a smile and tell everyone Congratulations! You are autistic and we’re so pleased that you are part of our community.

“The whole diagnosis process is difficult for everyone involved. It’s negatively based. Parents are often given the impression that their child will not be educated, will not have a relationship and will not work. It’s as if their child is doomed.

“But autistic children and adults have so much to offer the world. We call it autistic joy. Autism is neither good nor bad – it’s just different. And being autistic can make the world a lot shiner.”

Autism Understanding Scotland supports autistic people, regardless of age gender and level of need. The JEllie Foundation has made a donation to the charity to help its work in the Aberdeen City and Shire region which includes 1:1 support sessions and employment support. Those supported by the charity like the way they are treated with no judgment.

Marion continues, “’Can you not just …” is a phrase which the parents of autistic children hear relentlessly. ‘Can you not just make him eat that yoghurt?’ ‘Can you not just make her wear the red skirt?’ It shows a lack of understanding about the sensory challenges which autistic people face. It’s not a phrase you will ever hear from us. We’re flexible and relaxed and we value everyone. We want to show how successful anyone with an autism diagnosis can be and how the challenges can be worked with.”

One of the ways Autism Understanding Scotland is doing this is by training teachers across Aberdeen. More than 650 teachers have participated in their course, and they tell Marion – a former primary teacher herself – how they value learning about autism from autistic people themselves. The charity also makes information on all aspects of autism freely available to anyone who needs it.

“We don’t sort out issues here,” continues Marion. “We find ways to better support children and their parents to tackle the issues and we help to find support strategies. We look for how individuals can make reasonable adjustments at home, in school and in the workplace. We help people prepare for big life transitions which are difficult for autistic people – preparing for everything from the transition from home to school, from school to the workplace, preparing for a wedding and the transition to becoming a parent. The youngest member of our community is two and the oldest is 82 and we help them and everyone in between to celebrate their autistic identity.

“This donation will help us to make information more widely available to anyone who needs it at any time to help them separate fact from fiction. We also have plans to create posters for teenagers for every school in Scotland. We aim to reframe the narrative around autism.”





Sign up to hear the latest of our work and our donations.