What is Building Capacity?

Living with autism can greatly affect an individual’s quality of life at home and in the school environment.  Building Capacity involves empowering the child and young person with autism, their carers and wider family, the professionals who support them as well as their peers at school and the wider community.  This involves the amalgamation of resources and support, and in the wider community context, activities that will strengthen the skills, confidence and abilities of individuals with autism.

Key areas of Building Capacity should involve:

  • The Identification of shared goals and strategies based on a thorough understanding of the needs and strengths of the child or young person with autism.
  • Recognising the need for ongoing training, expertise and support for guidance.
  • Development of strong relationships between parents, professionals and the child and young person with autism.
  • Establishing a school-wide leadership approach whereby change occurs at multiple levels within the school setting.

What building capacity is not

Building Capacity is not about providing assistance but about encouraging and supporting pre-existing potential. With the reported prevalence of autism increasing, teachers and parents can be faced with a range of challenges within the home and classroom, often feeling unprepared.  Supporting a child or young person with autism can be specifically challenging for teachers, supporting staff, caregivers and family members because autism is a spectrum disorder that effects each child and young person differently to varying degrees.  Increasing our knowledge, experience and understanding of how autism can greatly enhance the lives of those with autism as well help with our own understanding of the individual with autism.

Who should be involved in building capacity?

Many carers of people with autism face significant daily challenges and the pressures of living with and supporting people who see the world very differently, who can appear unresponsive or who can present with behaviour that can be challenging at times and can be considerable. When caring for a person with autism, the caring role can sometimes be lifelong and can persist whether the person with autism lives with their carer or not. The person with autism can also lack insight into their autism and can decline care and support services that are intended to support the carer. Often children and young people with autism express feelings of exclusion particularly amongst their peers. This can greatly impact their mental health, well-being, social integration and quality of life not only for the individuals themselves with autism but also for their parents/carers, their siblings and family members as well as for their teachers and wider community who support them.

In striving for “what is best” to support the child or young person with autism, the development of collaborative partnerships among parents, professionals, and ultimately the child or young person with autism is essential. If the individual with autism is not involved at the beginning of the partnership process, he or she should be included as they grow and mature.   In other words, as the child and young person with autism matures, the individual with autism should play a central role within the partnership.

Central to the formation and success of parent–professional partnerships within the school environment is the collaborative professional training offered to parents and professionals.  This combined with building a climate of trust and mutual respect between parents and educational professionals is an important element in building capacity. To read further about Parent and Professional Partnerships please click here.

Training is therefore vitally important in developing skills to ensure that as carers and practitioners so we too are confident and empowered to building capacity within the home or school environment so we can enrich the lives of the child and young person.