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Organisation: Autism West Midlands

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Autism West Midlands

There are more than half a million people in the UK living with autism, an invisible and misunderstood disability. 60,000 live in the West Midlands.

Autism West Midlands is the leading charity in the West Midlands for people with autism. We use our passion and expertise to enrich the lives of people with autism and those who love and care for them. Our passionate, expert staff and volunteers work across all age groups and abilities, providing direct support to people with autism.

What do we do?

Support people with autism to live as independently as possible, in residential care, or in their own or the family home
Provide activities and events and support for families, and an information helpline
Help people with autism to find and keep a job
Offer training for parents of children with autism, and the professionals who help them ....and much more!

Our vision is a world where people with autism are universally understood and accepted as equal citizens.

Pathways Covered

Children and families

Overview

What is autism?
Autism is a life-long condition affecting around 1.1% of the population. It affects all races, classes and intellectual abilities. It is a spectrum condition meaning that it is extremely complex and affects people differently and to varying degrees. Autism is broadly defined as affecting three main areas (known as the "triad of impairments"): social communication, social interaction and social imagination. Everyone with autism is different. Whilst some people with autism lead independent lives, some need lifelong care. Others will need some degree of support, which will change over the course of their lifetime.

Autism is not a learning disability – about half of all people with autism have average or above-average intelligence – or a mental illness. However, one in three people with autism develop mental health difficulties due to the challenge of adapting to society with no support. People with autism often also have issues with sensory processing. They can either be over- or under-sensitive to any of their senses (sight, smell, touch, hearing, taste, balance and self-awareness).

There is no cure for autism but early diagnosis and specialist support has been shown to greatly improve the quality of life of people with autism.

Autism is a hidden condition, meaning that it is often difficult to tell that someone has autism. Lack of autism awareness can lead to misunderstandings about the reasons that a person with autism may behave in a certain way. This can sometimes increase anxiety and depression in people with autism. Increasing autism awareness is key to ensuring that people with autism receive the right support and understanding throughout life.

What is Asperger syndrome?
Asperger syndrome is a form of autism. People with Asperger syndrome have similar difficulties to people with autism, but they have fewer problems with speaking (although they still have difficulties with social aspects of communication, finding it difficult to interpret emotions and facial expressions for example) and have average or above average intelligence.

Autism Spectrum Disorders
Autism and Asperger syndrome can be grouped under the term Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Some characteristics that a person with ASD may display are:

Stilted speech, with repetitive use of phrases.
Conversations may be centred on special interests.
Inability to pick up on and understand conversational cues (for example may not understand how to conduct a conversation).
Difficulty understanding non-verbal cues such as facial expressions body language or eye contact appropriately.
Some people may appear rude, tactless or selfish because of a lack of understanding of social rules.
Difficulty understanding how people affect and influence each other.
Anxiety in social situations, related to an awareness of being different and not fitting in.
Change, especially unplanned change, can be very stressful.
A dependence on predictable, repetitive activities to provide reassurance.
High motivation and knowledge in special interests.
Good attention to detail, but an inability to see things in the bigger picture, as this requires flexible and abstract thinking.
Difficulty predicting the consequences of their actions and putting things into context.
Difficulty with planning and time management due to anxiety when working under pressure and a perfectionist streak.
Poor spatial awareness, motor skills and co-ordination.
Over-sensitive or under-sensitive sensory skills.
It is important to note that everyone with autism is unique and that this list should not be used as a check list for diagnosing autism

Social communication
Some people with autism struggle to understand verbal and non-verbal language, body language, facial expressions and sarcasm. They may interpret common phrases or sayings literally for example "It's raining cats and dogs". In a conversation, when someone would normally know when it is their turn to speak, someone with autism may be unusually silent. On the other hand, once they start talking, they may carry on for much longer than normal. Some people with autism therefore have to learn the mechanics of conversation in a way that most people do not.

Social interaction
Some people with autism may have difficulty expressing themselves and understanding the feelings and emotions of others. They may find it hard to adapt to social situations or form relationships

Social imagination
Some people with autism have a reduced ability to make sense of the world. This means that they may see the world as a threatening place. Some people with autism may demand and rely on rigid routines or repetitive behaviours. However it is not clear whether these routines are a way of making life manageable through a self-imposed structure, or whether a fixation on routine is an innate characteristic of the condition .

What we do

Support in the home

Our family outreach workers provide support in the home to families in Birmingham where one or more children has a diagnosis of autism. This work is funded by the ACT Foundation. We also offer the service in Sandwell, funded by Sandwell Council; and a similar service in Shropshire, funded by Shropshire Council and NHS.

Some of the services the outreach team provide are outlined below.

  • Advocacy
  • Hand over hand learning
  • A listening ear
  • Advice and guidance
  • Strategies on understanding and managing challenging behaviour, tailored to individual needs
  • We attend educational meetings, supporting parents
  • We can support with referrals to other agencies
  • Offer autism awareness sessions within the home to other family members
  • Write supporting letters and documentation
  • Over the phone support
  • Make sure families are aware of available services and know how to access them

Support groups
Autism West Midlands Parent Support Groups

Autism West Midlands' Parent Support Groups run across the West Midlands region and are accessible to all parents, whether or not their child has a diagnosis of autism. The groups provide a listening ear and sounding board for emotions and experiences.

Typically, our groups involve:

Bringing and sharing experiences
Drinking tea and eating lots of biscuits!
Opportunities for families to meet each other and discuss issues
Opportunities to increase knowledge and understanding
The groups can reduce feelings of isolation and provide an opportunity for external agencies and professionals to meet with parents and discuss services they provide.

All of the AWM Parent Support Groups are listed in our website events section.

You can find out more about the groups by calling our helpline on 0303 0300 111

Other support groups
Across the West Midlands we have contact with 39 support groups and around 10 'other contacts' who volunteer their phone lines for advice and guidance over the phone. All groups welcome new members. They are mostly run by volunteers from their own homes or they hire local community halls for events, so you may have to telephone more than once to get through.

These groups are mainly for parents/carers, however there are also groups for siblings and partners.

All support groups provide some level of emotional support and empower each other to make a difference in their local areas. They are a valuable source of information and support to families who live in their regions.

Where we do it

family support services across the West Midlands, including outreach, short breaks, support groups and education advice.

How to access

Make a referral

If you are a parent of a child with autism and feel you and your family would benefit from our support please contact the helpline in the first instance to make an appointment. Our advisors will then be able to discuss your particular concerns, and offer advice, refering for more intensive support if necessary. 

Helpline tel: 0303 03 00 111

Mental and physical health

Overview

What is autism?
Autism is a life-long condition affecting around 1.1% of the population. It affects all races, classes and intellectual abilities. It is a spectrum condition meaning that it is extremely complex and affects people differently and to varying degrees. Autism is broadly defined as affecting three main areas (known as the "triad of impairments"): social communication, social interaction and social imagination. Everyone with autism is different. Whilst some people with autism lead independent lives, some need lifelong care. Others will need some degree of support, which will change over the course of their lifetime.

Autism is not a learning disability – about half of all people with autism have average or above-average intelligence – or a mental illness. However, one in three people with autism develop mental health difficulties due to the challenge of adapting to society with no support. People with autism often also have issues with sensory processing. They can either be over- or under-sensitive to any of their senses (sight, smell, touch, hearing, taste, balance and self-awareness).

There is no cure for autism but early diagnosis and specialist support has been shown to greatly improve the quality of life of people with autism.

Autism is a hidden condition, meaning that it is often difficult to tell that someone has autism. Lack of autism awareness can lead to misunderstandings about the reasons that a person with autism may behave in a certain way. This can sometimes increase anxiety and depression in people with autism. Increasing autism awareness is key to ensuring that people with autism receive the right support and understanding throughout life.

What we do

There are more than half a million people in the UK living with autism, an invisible and misunderstood disability. 60,000 live in the West Midlands.

We are the leading charity in the West Midlands for people with autism. We use our passion and expertise to enrich the lives of people with autism and those who love and care for them. Our passionate, expert staff and volunteers work across all age groups and abilities, providing direct support to people with autism.

What do we do?

  • Support people with autism to live as independently as possible, in residential care, or in their own or the family home
  • Provide activities and events and support for families, and an information helpline
  • Help people with autism to find and keep a job
  • Offer training for parents of children with autism, and the professionals who help them ....and much more!

Our vision

A world where people with autism are universally understood and accepted as equal citizens.

How to access

Address: Autism West Midlands Helpline, Regent Court, George Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 1NU

Helpline: 0303 03 00 111

Fax: 0121 450 7581

Email: info@autismwestmidlands.org.uk

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