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World Autism Acceptance Week blog

To mark World Autism Acceptance Week, Laura Whitehouse, Autism and Asperger’s Employment Advisor at our Cambridgeshire Employment service has written this blog to share her experiences of working with people on the autism spectrum.

Who am I?

In 2015-2016, I trained with Teach East to become a Primary School Teacher. I completed my training and got a job as a Classroom Teacher, teaching in Year 4 at the school I trained in. I left teaching in 2018 as I found that it was not the role for me. Having left the profession, I secured my current role working with autistic adults to find and stay in work. But my experience of working with children on the autism spectrum as a Teaching Assistant, Trainee Teacher and Class Teacher continues to help me in my current work.

What is Autism?

Autism is a lifelong, developmental condition that affects about 1 in 100 people. It is a condition that affects the way in which people communicate and interact with the world around them. It is also a spectrum condition, which means that every individual is affected in a different way and have their own strengths and challenges. This definition has come from the National Autistic Society website, and this is a good place to start if you want to find out more at www.autism.org.uk. Also, local libraries have a good range of material on the subject including those written by people with autism.

My Experience and Top Tips

Working with and talking to people on the autism spectrum on daily basis allows me to learn something new every day. It has also highlighted the fact that each person is unique with their own strengths and challenges and so the best way of supporting them is by working in a person-centred way.

Now, I would like to share some of my top tips to supporting adults and children on the autism spectrum:

  • Increase your own knowledge of the condition and how it might affect an individual, this way you will have a better understanding of why they might be acting in a certain way.

  • Take time to get to know them, what are their interests, strengths and challenges, that way you can tailor support to suit their needs. The importance is that they are listened to and heard.

  • Routine is important to those on the spectrum as they know what is happening and it reduces anxiety. So, use of timetables written or visual can be beneficial.

  • Sudden changes can be difficult for some people on the autism spectrum. So, spending time preparing for it, explaining what the changes is and why it is happening can help manage the stress around it.

  • Avoid figurative and ambiguous language instead be clear in what you say and mean and check for understanding.

  • Be specific with expectations of work and behaviour.

  • If they have a sensory need or challenge, try to find ways to manage this. For example, if they are sensitive to noise then use noise cancelling headphones.

To find out more information about our Cambridgeshire Employment service, click here.

Young People’s Week: Castle service’s Community Mural

Richmond Fellowship’s Castle service is based in the University City of Cambridge. The service provides Supported Housing for young people between the ages of 16 and 25. It regularly gets involved in community activities including the Mill Road Winter Fair and is very active in fundraising and organising activities for people we support.

But did you know a mural, situated in one of the most cosmopolitan areas of Cambridge was created in partnership with the service?

It’s located on the city’s Mill Road bridge, the same road as the service’s office and has been a positive talking point of the area since its creation in 2006.

The artwork was designed by Sharon, a person staying at the neighbouring Youth Foyer as part of a competition. She spoke to the Cambridge News/Cambridgeshire Live website about it in 2019:

“Castle service were wanting to find a design that would adorn the Mill Road bridge and were encouraging people staying at the Youth Foyer to submit ideas.

The winning concept would be decided by a vote after all the designs were publicly exhibited, she was told.

So, inspired by the multicultural vibrancy of Mill Road, Sharon set to work with a huge, two-metre-long piece of paper and began to create her vision.

The idea, which was intended to represent both “the community of Mill Road and the wider world,” was comprised of a series of adjoining and overlapping flags, all overlaid with a line of irises.

Sharon said: “It took about three or four months for me to actually finish it.

“I was doing it every day, even on the weekends. It was my way of trying to stay afloat and not sink into depression.

“I didn’t know where I was going to go after.”

The designs were voted on, both by members of the public and residents of the Youth Foyer and the Castle Project, and Sharon’s proposal was chosen as one of the winning designs.

So, along with volunteers and residents from the Castle service and the Cambridge Youth Foyer, she set about painting the mural in the summer of 2006.

Sharon said: “We all got together and painted it. It really brought us together.

“After that, it really helped us to remain bonded. For many of us who didn’t have anywhere to go at Christmas, it was nice to have that little feeling of community and camaraderie.”

She added: “I’m extremely proud of the effort and support put in by the volunteers who helped me to create a moment so bright in my life when there was only darkness.

“This project spring-boarded me forward into where I am now.”

Follow our social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date with #YoungPeoplesWeek.

Radio Sparky: May Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 video special

To mark Mental Health Awareness Week 2021, we’ve a special video episode of Radio Sparky, the podcast which shines the spotlight on the excellent work happening at Richmond Fellowship services across the country.

In May’s edition, Matt Webb, Communications and Marketing Officer speaks to John from our Cambridgeshire Employment Service and Leah from Leicestershire Life Links about how they’ve been Connecting with Nature as coronavirus lockdown restrictions begin to ease.

Richmond Fellowship takes part in local radio ‘companions’ campaign

Richmond Fellowship is taking part in a radio campaign to highlight the work of its services during the coronavirus pandemic.

‘Cambridge Companions’ is supported by the government-backed Audio Content Fund and is designed to draw attention to loneliness and offer help and advice to listeners who may be suffering or who are able to reach out to support others.

The week-long campaign, which runs from 22 to 28 March, has been organised by Cambridge 105 Radio and will air on the community radio station as well as partners Cam FM and Star Radio in Cambridgeshire. It will also run on several other stations in East Anglia.

Laura Whitehouse from Richmond Fellowship’s Cambridgeshire Employment service has been taking part in an interview to talk about the work they do, and promo spots will also air across the week to signpost listeners to Richmond Fellowship’s local mental health services.

Kerry Stiles, East Anglia Area Manager at Richmond Fellowship said:

‘I’m so thrilled that our services in Cambridgeshire have been invited to be involved in this amazing initiative. Our teams have been working tirelessly during the pandemic to deliver support to those suffering from mental ill health and most isolated, often utilising technology to deliver face to face support digitally where appropriate’.

Trevor Dann, executive producer of the Companions campaign and a board member at Cambridge 105 Radio said:

‘We’ve really enjoyed working with Richmond Fellowship and the other charities to promote the work they do. The pandemic has really shone a light on how vital these services and organisations are to our local communities’.

To find out more information about the Companions campaign and to listen to Laura’s interview, visit www.radiocompanions.co.uk.

The campaign launch coincides with the start of our #CommunityServicesWeek where we’re shining the spotlight on the work of our Community support services on our social media channels.