Together with Sutton Mencap, Sutton Parents Forum, Orchard Hill College Academy Trust and other partners, the Sutton branch of The National Autistic Society marked World Autism Awareness Week 2018 (26 March – 2 April), to improve public understanding of autism.
Anyone with an interest in autism was invited to drop into the Sutton Salvation Army Church on Tuesday 27th March 2018 between 10.30am and 12.30pm for a chat over a cup of tea or coffee. There was art on display from autistic artist Louis Morel as well as short videos from our ‘Too Much Information’ campaign.
“This free event was aimed at individuals with autism, parents, carers, family members and professional staff, as well as adults who have never received a diagnosis but who suspect they may be on the autistic spectrum,” explained Lee, who runs the branch’s support group for adults.
Roberta Heys, co-chair of the Sutton branch said, “We want to thank everyone for their tremendous efforts. We are very proud of Lee for helping to arrange this event and for collaborating with other local organisations to increase understanding of autism.”
The Sutton branch of the National Autistic Society launched a Lego Club for local autistic children and their siblings last September. Fundraising Officer and volunteer of the branch, Isabel Stirrat, came up with the idea, as parents were having difficulties finding an activity that suited their children. The club runs every month on a Sunday at the United Reformed Church in Wallington, and we have recently launched a similar club for teenagers.
Isabel Stirrat said, “Lego is perfect because it is structured, systematic and always predictable. Children were having a fantastic time, building together, chatting away and comparing models in the gallery. Parents got a chance to relax too by having a cup of tea and talking in a relaxed environment. This might not sound like a big deal but for parents of autistic children it’s not something which happens often and having the support of people who have had similar experiences can make a real difference.”
Rachael Phillips, Co-chair of the Sutton branch added: “Having an autistic child can be a very isolating thing. In a time when parents of autistic children are facing more and more cuts in their support, we are really pleased with the success of our monthly Lego Club. This is a safe space for like-minded kids and their families to come together, do something that they love and build new friendships.”
One of the autistic children said: “I love Lego Club because I like to meet new people and I like to see that I’m not the only one with autism. I really like Lego because it can get your mind running and your imagination flowing.”
Following on from a course run by the Sutton ASD Assessment Team in 2017, a group of autistic adults identified that there was a need for local support beyond the diagnostic service that was provided. The Sutton branch of The National Autistic Society aided in getting this started, and the first public meeting took place in September 2017.
The support group aims to offer a safe space for sharing experiences of living with autism, promote peer connection and learning and enlist staff from local organisations to present information on relevant topics. The group is led by volunteer facilitator. After introductions there is usually a talk or presentation followed by a refreshment break, questions or discussion and a conclusion. Some meetings are run as a workshop. Some topics that have been covered are communication skills, benefits, diagnosis, social services and support networks.
As of July 2018, the group meets at Carshalton Beeches Baptist Church, Banstead Road, SM5 3NL on the last Tuesday of the month from 6.30 – 8:00 pm. The group is open to anyone 18+ who has been diagnosed or thinks that they may be on the autistic spectrum. A supporter is permitted to attend along with a member.