18 April 2013
Putting autism on the agenda
AWP's Wiltshire Autism Diagnostic Service (WADS) has been on a
tour of towns in their region recently to encourage people to find
out more about autism.
With the team being rather small, that responsibility fell to
the clinical service manager for WADS, Shirley Sheldon. "We -
that's me and colleagues from Wiltshire County Council (WCC) - have
been to Trowbridge, Salisbury, Devizes and Chippenham to try and
raise awareness across Wiltshire. This carries on from work we were
doing last year with WCC on awareness training for anyone employed
by the council - police, fire, care agencies, librarians..."
"The reason we're doing this stems in part from the 2009 Autism
Act which dictated that PCTs had to have a diagnostic service and
councils had to raise awareness on areas which affected those with
autism. Often, this group of people was being missed."
The implications of them "being missed" can lead to massive
social isolation. Only about 15% of people with autism currently
have a job so they are missing out on a lot of the usual things
that people get by going to work. "That's significant," says
Shirley, "because 1 in 4 of us meet our partners in work; 55% of us
meet best friends at work, and around 75% of people go out with
friends from work at the week. So if you don't have a job and
aren't "part of society" then you miss out on an awful lot. That's
why we have to help them."
Without a diagnosis, many people are going through life feeling
they don't fit in and failing in some areas without understanding
why. Once they've received a diagnosis it makes it easier for them
to get the help and support on offer.
How can these roadshows help though? "Any one of us can meet
someone with autism at any point in our lives," says Shirley.
"A good example is the traffic warden I spoke to at the
Salisbury roadshow recently. I asked him what he wanted the
leaflets and information for, and he said he never knew when he
stopped a driver whether it might be someone with autism.
"The more people we can reach in our communities and workplaces
means a greater chance of improving life for people with