Breaking Barriers: Advocacy for Autistic Children

Nakita T. Sydij, Sheridan College


The purpose of the study aimed to illuminate what advocacy for autistic children looks like from the perspectives of families and service providers, having captured “voice” from a qualitative lens. Shifting from a deficit-based model and lens towards a more strengths-based neurodiversity affirming approach, this Action Research study explored the perspectives of two autistic children, two caregivers and two healthcare professionals that provide services to the autistic children. Four themes emerged; a) how entanglements in a child’s life contributes to their success, b) how self-image affects an autistics’ ability to advocate, and c) how prevalent social bias and lack of understanding affects this community and d) why the scope of knowledge and understanding about autism needs to be cast wider. Consequently, the study points to the need for more awareness about autism and education on how to best support autistic individuals as both appear to be a contributing factor to reducing dominant discourses and misconceptions about autism. This in turn may alleviate some challenges caregivers and children face when advocating for support and accommodations in the healthcare and school system. Furthermore, increasing the education and awareness to minimize misunderstandings, and increasing the advocacy skills in families, will inherently positively impact the child’s ability to reach their full potential.