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Autism East Midlands Talks Autism Awareness Week 2017

28 March 17 interview: Alex Kuster

It's Autism Awareness Week this week, so we spoke to Autism East Midlands CEO Jane Howson about what they're getting up to for the next seven days and beyond...

Autism East Midlands was set up in 1968...
We started as a school – Sutherland House School is still in the centre of Nottingham, but we now have a really diverse range of services. We support over 200 adults with autism in either accommodation based services or flexible support and have an employment service as autistic people have among the lowest employment rates of all groups, at around 15% employed. We support hundreds of families and autistic children with our short breaks and play services.

We also provide parent training and information, autism awareness training for businesses, diagnostic services and family support hubs across the East Midlands. We want to provide the best possible of quality services to enable as many autistic people as possible to have a high quality of life, in whatever form suits them as an individual.

What challenges do people with autism face today?
A whole range – lack of employment, cuts in services, lack of understanding in wider society.

What do Autism East Midlands do to raise awareness around these issues?
We worked with local businesses and service providers to improve awareness of autism as well as environments. Rolls Royce, Nottingham University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Intu – we’ve worked with all of them in the past. We’ve also worked with DWP as part of the Autism Alliance to develop a toolkit for Job Centres and employers and that’s being launched this week by Penny Mordaunt MP – Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work.

CEO Jane Howson

What advice can you give to people who’ve recently received a diagnosis?
A diagnosis is really valuable to help the autistic person and those around them understand why someone is different and what their support needs might be. It’s not a magic wand, and it’s really important to get good advice as to where to go next and what support might be right for that individual.

Tell us about what we can expect from Autism Awareness Week…
We have a really busy few weeks, with conferences, the Intu launch of their guides for autistic shoppers, runs, silly sock days, people shaving their heads, baking cakes and lots of other activities. We are launching a new service in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire and of course buildings being lit up in blue. We’re also running a selfie campaign on social media.

What can we do within our local community to support the cause?
You can download a pack from our website and join in the fun, or just print off one of our posters and post a selfie supporting AEM and autism awareness.

Your motto for the week is: ‘Whatever you do, do it blue!’ Why did you pick the colour blue?
Blue is the international colour of Autism Awareness Week. If previous years are anything to go by, we’ll see blue cakes, blue hair and blue clothing for starters. Then there will be large and small buildings light up in blue light – this will be the second year that Rolls Royce have done so and this year they’ll be joined by Nottingham University, De Montford University, Peppercorns Cafes and Eatons in Mansfield. We hope maybe even more.

What are your plans for the rest of 2017?
We have a new service opening in Rotherham, plus we’re moving a couple of services to better premises and will be increasing our emphasis on employment and independence.

Is there anything else you’d like to say to LeftLion readers?
If you would like to learn more about Autism East Midlands or can support us in any way please get in touch.

Autism Awareness Week runs from Monday 27 March - Sunday 2 April 2017

Autism East Midlands website

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