Autism training by non-autistic people? What is that all about! – Sarah E Boon

Every now, and then I’ll be browsing on social media and a conversation that comes up among autistic people is when autism training is delivered by non-autistic people. Historically, autism training was always delivered by professionals with no autistic involvement. Although this is starting to change, I still suspect that a lot (if not the majority) of autism training nowadays is delivered and created by non-autistics.

Across different jobs, I’ve had my fair share of autism training. Some are better than others, but I’ve seen firsthand how poor these training sessions can be. Quite frankly, I’ve been embarrassed by how bad they are. Something I also find fascinating is most of these trainers are blissfully unaware that autistic people are in the audience cringing at what they are saying due to it being out of date, inaccurate, or just straight up wrong (both factually and morally). I can also guarantee that they wouldn’t be saying a lot of the things they did if they knew autistic adults were in the audience. From my experience, I find that some trainers show their real resentment for autistic people or our associated traits when delivering training. It’s almost like they just wanna slag off about the things they find annoying about autistic people to a group of people that they assume are all non-autistic.

However, bad training doesn’t always come in the form of resentment. I’ve also attended training that wasn’t about autism, but the presenter claimed that autism and ADHD always comes from trauma in childhood. But they also admitted they couldn’t provide any evidence to back up this claim though….. Although I have trauma, my autism and ADHD were very much present before being impacted by trauma! So I was very suspicious of  this claim being made in such a way. 

Now, if you’re not involved with autism discourse, you may be asking why is it so important for autistic people to be delivering and creating autism training?

Well, so much of the previous training was based on a deficit only narrative that created ableist assumptions, and did not consider the reality for autistic people. The assumptions people often make about us from the outsiders perspective are often very different to being autistic. So any autism training that does not have a strong emphasis on autistic lived experiences will be lacking at best. These issues with autism training is something I’ve been aware of for a while now, but a recent post from The Daily Tism (who you should be following by the way) and the responses made me see the importance of writing about this issue as a blog post.  So what are the consequences of autism training without autistic involvement?

  • One sided perspective of autism that is ill informed. 
  • Autism training is usually for professionals such as healthcare workers, support workers, teachers and social workers. These people can have a big influence over our lives, and if they don’t get the right training, that can be dangerous for us. 
  • Ableist approaches used in training may go unchallenged without autistic people calling it out (as we can often see what non-autistic people can’t when it comes to what’s harmful for us) Read more here. 
  • As a result – people think they are being trained to help us, when they could be trained in approaches which can be harmful (eg ABA and forcing autistic children to conform to social norms). 
  • It creates barriers towards better understanding and acceptance of autistic people. 

Anyway if you’re offered autism training or have the chance to attend, please don’t just assume it will be fine. Please find out or ask questions about what’s covered, their beliefs about autism and if the people designing and delivering the training are autistic. Asking these questions will give an indication of what you’ll likely be getting. What I am ultimately trying to say is to not take autism training at face value, and ask questions if something doesn’t seem right! If you have attended any bad autism training, please comment down below so we can all know what else to look out for! 

Also if you are reading this while looking for autism training created by an autistic person, then I can help you out! And you can find out more by clicking here 

If you enjoyed this post and like to support my writing, I would be forever grateful if you could buy me a coffee (or tea in my case) on Ko-fi.


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