World Autism Awareness Week takes place from March 29th to April 4th 2021 all around the globe and the United Nations General Assembly has unanimously declared April 2nd World Autism Awareness Day. The purpose of this day is to create awareness of autism and to create a more inclusive world for everyone. The Covid-19 pandemic has been extremely challenging for children who are on the ASD spectrum with many crucial education services and supports still closed. During this very important annual week, the international ASD community come together in recognition of people with autism and their families and communities. As part of the celebrations hundreds of landmarks, buildings, homes and communities around the world and the international goal is to shine a blue light on communities throughout the world to raise awareness and take action for autism.
Local development organisation, Midlands Science, has worked over the past year to provide various workshops with ASD appropriate science outreach in response to requests from the community and based on best practice research. Their project which is called Quiet Science is funded by Science Foundation Ireland’s Discover Awards programme and it began with two pilot schools in Co. Offaly. It is now being rolled out online across the Midlands through appropriate partnerships.
CEO of Midlands Science, Jackie Gorman commented,
‘Quiet Science, which focuses on science activities for children on the ASD spectrum is a project we embarked on last year. It allows pupils to participate in hands-on, engaging science lessons with resources and instruction provided. We are delighted that despite the current pandemic and school closures, we are still able to offer these activities online with our professional providers, ‘Anyone 4 Science’ and we have had an amazing response from parents and children alike.’
Before this programme was delivered, a suite of outreach activities was co-created with students and STEM providers in consultation with appropriate ASD education experts. The project will also produce a manual of best practice which will be circulated following evaluation of the project.
Jackie Gorman continued,
‘Lockdowns are challenging for all of us, and we are glad we have been able to continue to provide outreach. The students particularly seem to like the fact that special kits are delivered to their homes in advance of the workshops. We also saw great engagement with our Facebook Live events, which were also provided by the team at Anyone 4 Science last summer and we were so proud of our Midlands pupils for continuing to celebrate science in these extraordinary times. Creating awareness of neurodiversity and seeing strength and opportunities in diversity is vital in life and science and we are pleased we are able to offer some services at the moment that people are finding to be really worthwhile and engaging.’
Midlands Science was delighted to receive some very encouraging feedback from parents whose children had participated in the Quiet Science events. One parent said, ‘After participating in the Quiet Science workshops my son feels like a real scientist. It might not be a big deal for others but for my child, it means the world. When he knew he was going to be taking the ‘Quiet Science’ workshop, he made sure to have his lab white coat and goggles ready, and don’t forget his lab name tag… of course. It has made a huge difference and put that shiny sparkle in his eyes.’