*This post is for information purposes only. I am a registered patient member of Autism Bedfordshire and volunteered to write this post. I received no payment or any other compensation for this post.
History of Autism Bedfordshire
Autism Bedfordshire is a voluntary organisation founded in 1991, which provides emotional and practical support for families in the Bedfordshire and Luton areas.
I am a member of Autism Bedfordshire, which is located in Bedford, Bedfordshire. Last December, I volunteered to take part in Autism Bedfordshire’s fundraising event: Cycle to Santa.
Here is a timeline of Autism Bedfordshire, which shows the transition from when they were founded to where they are at now:
As a charity, they understand the challenges for autistic people from trying to fit in, dealing with crippling anxiety to not being able to express how they feel. Personally, what I find helpful is that they not only look at the situation and experience from an individual point of view but also as a family unit.
Autism Bedfordshire highlights the difficulty for parents, who sometimes avoid taking their kids out and about to places due to the reactions from people. Families then can feel isolated, and this causes a huge impact on their emotional wellbeing. Autism Bedfordshire explains that there is a financial burden on families with at least one parent not being able to work due to their caring responsibilities.
Summer Activity Scheme
Autism Bedfordshire offers a summer programme, which is running at two locations, Bedford and Luton. Families of children/young people who are autistic sometimes need a break from their caring responsibilities, so a service like this is really needed. It is also beneficial to the child/young person attending as it helps them to develop their social skills and independence.
Copyright (c) Image provided by Autism Bedfordshire
The summer programme is highly staffed with a staff support ratio of 1:1 or 2:1, depending on the need of the individual. The service is tailored to the individual’s needs. Staff review the child’s preference using a detailed profile that the parents fill out, outlining communication methods, behaviour traits, dietary needs and calming techniques.
All employed and voluntary staff receive training on autism and behaviour, communication, safeguarding, policies and procedures, and the Early Years Foundation Stage. Some are also trained in music therapy and demand avoidance.
The Luton Junior Scheme was inspected on 25th July 2017 by Ofsted. The scheme was awarded outstanding for effectiveness, quality of learning and personal development and quality of service with passion. A member whose son attended the Luton Summer Scheme in 2018 commented: “The activities are really good. My son went on a boat for the first time with Autism Beds!” https://www.autismbedfordshire.net/summer-scheme
Loads of Autistic Fun (L.O.A.F)
L.O.A.F run groups in four locations across the county. L.O.A.F is run on a Saturday morning, and the whole family can attend. The group provides a range of social, educational and physical activities to engage with whilst being supported by staff. During 2017-2018, 2,094 hours of short breaks and support were enjoyed by parents/carers from this service. (Autism Bedfordshire Annual Report 2017-2018)
In 2003, parents wanted a social group for their teenage children so in 2004 Autism Bedfordshire introduced Wanted Fun for young people with Asperger Syndrome or high functioning autism, aged 10-17. During 2017-2018, 70 sessions of Wanted Fun were provided. Each session runs for 2-3 hours. (Autism Bedfordshire Annual Report 2017-2018)
Adulthood can be difficult for a person on the autism spectrum. They may struggle with social interaction and may need help to live independently. Having a service, which helps build confidence and self-esteem is a lifeline for many adults.
Adult Services provide courses on money handling, cooking, and healthy lifestyles and understanding their diagnosis. They also provide employment courses, which include interview practice, how to write a CV and accessing work placements, volunteering job roles and even paid work.
During 2017-2018, 1448 hours of direct learning were provided. 100% of adults said that they felt less isolated and that they have improved their skills as a result of attending their courses. Furthermore, 100 % of adults feel more confident about preparing for an interview after accessing their employment support programme. (Autism Bedfordshire Annual Report 2017-2018)
Copyright (c) Image provided by Autism Bedfordshire
The social groups include activities such as walking, gardening, pub trips and just hanging out, building friendships.
During 2017-2018, 329 parents/carers accessed training and 365 practitioners through Autism Bedfordshire. (Autism Bedfordshire Annual Report 2017-2018).
Autism Bedfordshire provide many insightful courses for practitioners and parents/carers such as Autism in the Classroom, Using Social Stories, and Autism and Mental Health.
They also hold a monthly support group for parents and carers of adults with autism. This is in partnership with Carers in Bedfordshire and covers topics such as Housing, Benefits and Health.
Both Autism Bedfordshire charity shops came together with help from the community, including local tradespeople, businesses and friends of Autism Bedfordshire.
Copyright (c) Images provided by Autism Bedfordshire
To find out more about Autism Bedfordshire, follow:
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