An Australian first autism education campaign - Change Your Reactions – was launched today by Victoria’s peak autism body Amaze and the Victorian Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, Luke Donnellan.
The $2.8 Million campaign urges Australians to take steps to “build a more inclusive community that understands, accepts and positively engages with autistic people” and seeks to bridge the gap between those with and without autism.
Chief Executive Officer of Amaze Fiona Sharkie says Change Your Reactions is the first campaign of its kind in Australia explaining that “there has never been a social behaviour change campaign to promote understanding and inclusion of autistic people in Australia”.
More than half of autistic Australians and their families experience significant social isolation, with 40 percent revealing they sometimes struggle to leave the house because they're concerned about being subjected to discriminatory or negative behaviours in the community.
64 percent of Australians living with autism also say people actively avoid them while 59 percent have reported being described as ‘weird’, which Ms Sharkie says is “worrying”.
The campaign is a reminder for Australians about how people with autism are treated in Australia.
Mr Donnellan says, “A lack of community understanding is one of the main barriers that can lead to autistic Victorians missing out on opportunities in life.”
With Ms Sharkie adding, “It is important for Australians to remind themselves that autistic people are not disabled by their autism but mostly by how others respond to it. Our aim is for a better understanding of how autistic people experience autism so others are less judgemental. It’s about being curious, not critical."
Research has found that 85 percent of Australians know someone with autism and only 29 percent know how to support an autistic person, revealing a significant gap between the community being aware of autism and creating an autism-friendly community.
Ms Sharkie says, “Only 29 percent of Australians know how to support an autistic person, but only 4 percent of the autism community feel others know how to support them.
“That young boy you see in the supermarket becoming agitated at the check-out, his mother doing everything she can to stop the meltdown she knows is coming, doesn't need you to stare or tell her that her child simply ‘needs discipline’. She needs your help.”
The Change Your Reactions campaign includes a mix of advertising across regional and metropolitan television, print, radio, digital and social media and has been created using research about what autistic people want and experience in day to day life.
Ms Sharkie says. “Supporting autistic Australians to tell their stories and share their experiences is an integral part of the Campaign. Autistic characters featured in the Campaign are portrayed by autistic actors.
“Amaze has undertaken extensive research about what autistic people, their families and carers want the community to know about autism. The insights of this research – as well as extensive consultation with the autistic community – informed the Change Your Reactions campaign.”
You can learn more about how you can change your reactions by going to, changeyourreactions.com.