At the end of last year Working Well With Autism, a small Plymouth based cooperative, asked the important question, ‘Who’s working well with Autism’ at an event entitled the ‘Better Futures Forum’ in the Guildhall in Plymouth city centre. Autism is a neurological condition which is often hidden but can create significant impairment for those coping with the reality of having a brain sometimes referred to as being ‘wired differently’.
Thirty-one organisations working with people with autism including members of Plymouth City Council’s Special Educational Needs and Disability team came together to look at the needs of people over the age of 16 and whether services already exist to meet that need.
Janet Wise, a Director of Working Well With Autism, who helped facilitate the event said “We wanted to produce an eye catching visual image to help people get to grips with the idea of creating an audit of services so we sent each organisation a puzzle piece and invited them to bring it with them. We created a near life size person which we divided into sectors and organisations placed their pieces in the sector they worked. It was a fun exercise rather than a scientific one but did give us a snapshot of service providers present at the event and showed us areas where we need to investigate further. People with autism and their carers have told us they are often puzzled by different services and how to access them and at this event everyone brought with them the commitment to try to solve that puzzle.”
Wendy Hart, another facilitator, explained that “most of the day was spent in groups looking at case studies and discussing what is out there for people with autism. There were lots of discussions too about how we could do things better. Loads of people mentioned they were glad to have the opportunity to come together with similar businesses which they knew nothing about before. Many called for this to be a yearly event.”
Another Director, Rob de Jong, said “There was a great buzz in the room and so many organisations are excited about the idea of a Plymouth Autism Hub and a Plymouth Alliance that would bring together everyone working to create better services for people with autism. We heard some harrowing stories today which showed us what happens when people with autism are consistently misunderstood and left unsupported. There was a strong sense that many people with autism have huge potential and a great deal of untapped skills that could be utilised if only they were properly supported especially in the workplace”.
Over the coming weeks Working Well With Autism will continue with this Big Lottery Funded project and will be creating more opportunities to focus on autism culminating in a Conference in the Spring. One big theme to emerge on the day was the need for greater awareness about autism in the workplace and to meet this need Working Well With Autism have created a workshop which will take place from 10am to 1pm on Wednesday February 1st. If you have a personal or professional interest in Autism in adults get in touch! www.workingwellwithautism.org