Friday 9 December 2011

Autism in Mind Birthday Celebrations, the Olympics and Euro 2012

Welcome back to Adventures with Autism Works. last Friday, Peter and I attended an event to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Autism in Mind (AIM), a Sunderland-based support group whose mission is to both support people with ASC and their families and raise awareness of ASC. Through my work, I have had the privilege of visiting and working with many autism charities, and something that many of them have in common is that they have originated from the hard work and dedication of families affected by ASC.

When AIM and many other regional autism charities started out at around the close of the last century, which was also around the time of my own diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome, awareness of Asperger's Syndrome was, for the main part, minimal. Ten years on though, we have seen some quite remarkable advances in ASC awareness, to the point where people with considerable influence at regional and national level, including councillors and members of parliament, have taken notice. That this is possible has largely been down to dedicated individuals such as Carole and Terry Rutherford who were instrumental in starting AIM.

In 2002, when AIM was in its infancy, Terry too a 2,500 mile trip around the UK collecting 6500 signatures for the group's Call for Action campaign. This campaign was the used to petition parliament for change. As well Terry at AIM, Kevin Healey, Chair of Staffordshire Adult Autistic Society, has also played a huge role in obtaining signatures to put before parliament to campaign for much-needed change in relation to ASC. For all his tireless work for the cause, we are delighted at Autism Works to hear that Kevin has been selected to carry the Olympic Torch during its 80-day tour of the UK before the London Olympics open.

Though thanks to the efforts of such dedicated groups or people, ASC awareness is so much stronger than it was when AIM began, there is still much to be done. One of the next steps is to raise further ASC awareness within employers across all sectors - public, private and third. Hopefully, I can contribute to this with both Autism Works and through the Sunderland Autism Working Group's Employment Sub-Group, which I have taken up a role within to help plan an event to bring together a range of major employers within the region to promote the benefits of employing people with ASC.

On the theme of sport, I sat through the razmataz of the draw for Euro 2012 which takes place in the Ukraine and Poland just before the Olympics open in London around this time last week, waiting to see who would be playing who in the first round. England were drawn into, what I felt was, potentially a tricky group with France, Sweden and the co-hosts the Ukraine. I will be supporting England at heart as it is my home nation, but I am not expecting anything special given their largely pathetic record at major international tournaments. Personally, I think that one of two things might happen, that they either have as poor a campaign as they had at the 2010 World Cup or they may uncover a new star that inspires good performances for a change, perhaps like Paul Gascoigne emerged as a new star the last time England enjoyed an extensive run in a tournament on foreign soil at the 1990 World Cup - such great memories!

To see how awareness of ASC continues to unfold, be sure to stay tuned to Adventures with Autism Works.

Many congratulations to Kevin Healey on being selected as an Olympic Torch Bearer

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