Friday, 23 December 2011

Preventing the closure of a youth club

My son Charlie is 15 and attends a fantastic youth club called 'Incredible Tuesdays' in Yeovil, Somerset, for young people aged 13-25 with autism and other special needs.

A few weeks ago the parents were told that Somerset County Council's youth budget was being slashed by a staggering 75 per cent and Incredible Tuesdays was among those youth clubs being targeted. The parents got together for a meeting and have decided to fight to save the club.

Since then I have written to our local MP, David Laws, asking for his help in our fight and he has invited me to meet with him next Friday (16 December) to discuss how we can move forward with his support. I have also written to the town clerk of Yeovil Town Council and he has responded and agreed to put it on the council's agenda for discussion on 3 January. He has also forwarded copies of our correspondence to the chief executive of Somerset County Council and three of our local county councillors. I will also be attending the town council meeting along with some of the other parents and we will be asking for them to consider helping to fund the club in some form and securing its future.

The County Council is currently in consultation over its youth budget and decisions are expected to be made by the end of January. So at the moment I feel as if we are on the precipice of really achieving something and hopefully keeping this vital service open, which is a lifeline for this very vulnerable group of children and the parents who are very grateful for a few hours respite.

Fingers crossed that things will go our way, but we will not give up lightly!


Christmas awareness campaign success

A huge thank you to our ambassadors for sending a press release to their local newspapers about the challenges they and their families face at Christmas.

We've had some fantastic results from the press release and the response was truly outstanding at such an early stage in the life of the Autism Action Network.
Here are some examples of what has been achieved so far, and we're hoping to see even more coverage in the coming weeks:

Mid Sussex Leader
Kicking-off the coverage, Victoria's press release got her quoted in the newspaper, along with Autism Helpline manager Emma Delaney.

Heart FM Cambridgeshire and BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
A great double whammy for Geraldine, who went on air on two of Cambridge's biggest radio stations two days in a row to talk about autism and Christmas time.

BBC Three Counties Radio and South Bucks Star
Sarah went to the studio for an hour-long live discussion about autism and Christmas. There was a phone-in and Sarah did a great job providing insight into autism. Not content with her hour-long stint in the studio, Sarah went on to achieve some fantastic coverage in the South

Bucks Star too. Fab After Fifty
Hitting a national audience, Machita shared her experience with a journalist from this website aimed at women over the age of fifty. This was a great audience to reach with Christmas messages and also resulted in a fantastic plug for our Christmas fundraising campaign, FestiviTea.

Plymouth Herald
Marco got his press release featured in the Plymouth Herald and even went down to the paper's offices to get his photo taken next to the office Christmas tree for the story.

Tonbridge Courier
Jacquelyn arranged an interview with the newspaper, who sent down a photographer to take some photos of Jacquelyn and her daughter. Jacquelyn got her daughter involved by getting her to write down what she finds tough at Christmas, so that Jacquelyn could use her daughter’s thoughts in the interview - great idea.

As a result of her efforts, Nicola secured a slot to talk about autism and Christmas time on Kent's local KMFM radio station. Great to have yet more of the airwaves dedicated to the important topic.

Literally Speaking
Louise decided to use the Christmas press release as a starting point to write an entry for her 'Literally Speaking' blog all about autism and bringing up her son. We thought the blog entry was really moving and a fantastic way of doing something a bit different to raise awareness

The National Autistic Society website
Thanks finally to Karen, who agreed to let us use her story for a news story on our website about Christmas. Our website is a key resource for people affected by autism and we're thrilled to be able to share Karen's story and point people towards the advice they want.

These results are a testament to the sheer number of ambassadors who took part in this awareness raising about Christmas. Press coverage is never guaranteed, so we also want to say a massive thanks to all of you who sent out the release but didn't get any coverage on this occasion. Hopefully these stories will encourage you to get involved again in the future.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Awareness raising with a twist!

I want to make a positive change, not just for Jake (my son who has Asperger syndrome), but for others who are affected by autism and Asperger syndrome.

I kick-started my fundraising with a trek in Snowdonia in August - but that's just the beginning. Jake is football-crazy, but the opportunities for him to get involved at a grass-roots level are woefully limited. So as part of next year's fundraising activities, we're going to visit each of the 20 Premiership football clubs in just two days.

I hope the stunt will show people how important it is that people with autism and Asperger syndrome have the opportunity to be included - after all, we are a sport-loving nation!
We're going to be asking for goodies from all the clubs and will auction them off at a special evening of music in the summer.

Being an Autism Action Network ambassador is about strength in numbers. I have heard about other ambassadors doing fantastic things, whether it's raising their concerns to their MP, talking to journalists or going on bonkers adventures like me. It's going to make a real difference and the momentum and passion in the network is just so inspiring.