City makes pledge to become Autism Friendly

Wolverhampton is pledging to become an Autism Friendly City – and ensure that people with autism are given the same opportunities as anyone else.

Autism affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they see, hear and feel the world around them. People with autism experience it in different ways, but typically face challenges in social communication and interaction.

Around 1 in 100 people in Wolverhampton are estimated to have an autism spectrum condition, while of those around half also have a learning disability and 30% suffer severe mental health difficulties.

The ambition to make Wolverhampton an Autism Friendly City has been unveiled by the City of Wolverhampton Council ahead of World Autism Awareness Week, which starts today (Monday 26 March, 2018).

Councillor Val Gibson, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: "I am delighted that the council and its partners have pledged to make Wolverhampton an Autism Friendly City by offering as much help and support as possible to people young and old with the condition, and their families.

"We want Wolverhampton to be a place where people with autism feel sale, understood and supported, have the same opportunities as anyone else, can live the life they choose, receive personalised support when they need it, enjoy meaningful activities and be active members of our community."

The aim is to make Wolverhampton an Autism Friendly City by 2021 – the end of the current Joint Autism Strategy, which was developed by the council, Wolverhampton Clinical Commissioning Group, schools and the University of Wolverhampton.

Launched in 2016, the strategy has already helped bring around a number of improvements including the development of a new diagnosis, treatment, support and care pathway for adults, and improving the support that is offered to parents or carers of children with autism after they receive a diagnosis.

Three City nurseries have created enhanced mainstream early years provision for children with autism and other complex needs, and autism training is being made available for school staff and frontline professionals.

A new specialist centre for autism was officially opened at the City of Wolverhampton College in December to cater for a dozen students aged 16-25, while Enable, the employment service, provides individualised support to people with autism who are looking for work, including help with CVs, interviews and job coaching.

A full review of SEND education has been completed with a number of recommendations being implemented to ensure there is the capacity and resources within special and mainstream schools to meet the needs of all pupils with autism, while work is underway with the voluntary sector to develop a network of services to support people with autism and their families.

Councillor Sandra Samuels OBE, Cabinet Member for Adult Services, said: "The council and its partners have already demonstrated a commitment to people living with dementia by making Wolverhampton a Dementia Friendly City, and by now pledging to become an Autism Friendly City we want to ensure that people with autism in Wolverhampton are also given the help and support they need to live life to the full.

"While we have made significant progress in implementing our Autism Strategy, there is much more we can and will do – and by setting ourselves the aim of being autism friendly by 2021, we hope to galvanise effort and interest in delivering real improvements for people with autism."

World Autism Awareness Week is organised by The National Autistic Society, which has launched its "Too Much Information" campaign to challenge the myths, perceptions and stereotypes around autism. People are encouraged to visit the website at www.autism.org.uk/get-involved/tmi, watch a short film and find out what actions they can take to make life easier for someone with an autism spectrum condition.