How When & Where to start

On Friday 7th June at All Saints Church Swanage, Dani Calvo Westcott and myself on behalf of Walc Ltd were invited by Andrew Fleming the Town Crier, to attend an initial meeting with a variety of professionals and town figures, to discuss how to go about creating an Autism-friendly Swanage. There were councillors, care managers, church ministers and wardens, an ex-youth worker, a G.P, a retired manager from Swanage hospital and also a resident from a local care home for adults with ASD, along with 2 parents of children with ASD.

The two parents in attendance were able to give insight as to what they felt would be needed. There was an overall consensus that fundamentally a lack of education of the general public was the biggest problem. Ideas were thrown about as to what could be done to make the general public more aware and also if there could be a form of identifying those establishments, who had an understanding of ASD, perhaps by the form of a sticker similar to the dementia forget-me-not, but instead a sunflower. This idea was met with agreement, but also it was discussed as to how you would be able to identify those establishments. Would it be by them passing some kind of orientation training in Autism or simply would it be that if they showed some interest then they would be given autism-friendly status? Short and long term actions were suggested as follows:

Short-terms actions suggested

3/  The group will organise a walk bringing together local families & adult care groups –  a Saturday at 5 pm was suggested – what about June 22nd meeting at Mowlem, along the beach, Shep’s Hollow to All Saints, plant a sunflower & refreshments, Day’s Park to Mowlem.

4/   Organising teaching sessions for interested (non-autism professional) individuals & groups

5/ Hold a social evening event to launch project

Long-term actions suggested

6/  Form a steering group to lead the project – Town council /Rotary etc representatives to join

7/  Raising the profile of autism in the town and reminding establishments of  responsibilities re in equalities legislation, to raise the level of normalising & acceptance

8/  Organise autism-friendly events such as say,  autism Hour shopping at Co-op with low lighting/music/noise  or a special night at the cinema

9/  To work with Tourist Information in providing materials to attract visitors to Swanage – eg recommended restaurants, shops, activities where establishments have undergone some training and can be awarded ‘Autism Friendly’ status

10/ Adopt the sunflower motif used nationally to be known (similar to Dementia Friendly forget-me-not flower)

11/ To reach out to areas of the community, not at this meeting – PVS, Autism Wessex, Churches

12/ To extend network contact to encourage combating the sense of isolation, the uncertainty of future and unacceptance

This was a great start to a great idea, to whom the recognition should clearly go to Andrew Fleming who organised and chaired the meeting.

Walc were very pleased to be invited and look forward to more ideas and actions going ahead in the coming months.

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