Rebecca Duffus BSc, PGCE, MA is an experienced Advisory Teacher with a Psychology Degree and a Masters in
Autism and Education.

She has many years of experience working with students and educators in both mainstream
and specialist education settings as well as within local council and education services. Rebecca is the author of the Autism, Identity and Me; Workbook and Guidebook, has been a speaker at conferences across the UK, developed a
range of parent programmes, and provides training and coaching for settings. Rebecca is passionate about
celebrating neurodiversity.

Autistic Identity

Research shows that having a positive understanding of your autistic identity is an indicator of higher self-esteem
and wellbeing as an adult.  (Corden, Brewer & Cage, 2021 and Cooper, Smith, & Russell, 2017).  Yet, when do we
teach this?
So often, autistic young people are told to stop stimming, taught neurotypical ‘social skills’ and disciplined because
of characteristics directly related to their autistic identity.  We need to be actively promoting autistic pride and
creating communities where autistic young people can understand their strengths and have their needs catered for.
When a young person gets a diagnosis, it can be hard to know what to say.  In many cases, young people are not
given the opportunity to explore their autistic identity, but it is never too late to support a young person in
developing a better sense of self.

I have worked for a number of years doing just this, through clearly structured sessions, together creating
personalised books. The Autism, Identity and Me (AIM) Workbook for young people (published by Routledge) was
created to become the individual’s unique story, using visual prompts to positively explore their personality and
interests, feelings of difference and what this means to them. The book also features other autistic individuals,
providing peer representation, and a template toolkit.

Giving young people the space and time to explore and embrace their autistic identity, in a way that is positive and
empowering, is essential for their sense of self and belonging. Here are a few ideas:

 Highlight differences in a positive way in everyday life.  For example, apples and oranges, pens and pencils,
different roles within a sports team.  Each share similarities and differences but are equally good and valid.
Link this to the concept of neurodiversity.
 Use visuals to explore autism characteristics and what their unique autistic identity looks like.  For example,
show pictures related to sensory differences to prompt discussions around over-reactivity and under-
reactivity to different senses.  The Autism, Identity and Me Workbook includes a range of visual prompts and
space to personalise each section, so the book becomes truly theirs.
 Develop their own diary or workbook where they can reflect on their identity (or buy the AIM Workbook!).
Consider buying personalised notebooks or encourage them to set up their own system to help process
information on an ongoing basis. This could be recording voice notes, videos or typing into a document.
 Explore accounts from other autistic individuals, particularly those they have something in common with, so
that they feel represented.
 Develop an ‘Autism Identity Statement’ together that they can use to explain to others what autism means
to them (this is included in the AIM Workbook).
 Follow their lead – you want to develop autistic pride, but it is very important to respect their
communication preferences. Do they want to share their ‘Autism Identity Statement’ with other family
members and friends, or just with specific people?
It was great to chat to Anna about all things autism, as well as wellbeing which are both topics close to my heart.
The time flew by and it always feels like there is more to say! I hope we get to meet in person one day!
Autism, Identity and Me books: https://routledge.pub/Autism-Identity-and-Me
Twitter: https://twitter.com/rebeccaduffus

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rebeccaduffusautism
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rebecca.duffus/

 

Rebecca Duffus
Specialist autism teacher and consultant

www.rebeccaduffus.com
www.instagram.com/rebecca.duffus
www.twitter.com/rebeccaduffus
www.facebook.com/rebeccaduffusautism

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