A variety of activities for autism awareness month will help to spread the message of inclusion for children and adults who experience autism – themselves, at their school or in their families.
In the run-up to World Autism Awareness Day on April 2nd, Autism Eileanan Siar has planned a series of events to engage and educate children at school, the community as a whole and businesses in particular.
Today (Tuesday March 19th) An Lanntair became the second island organisation to be presented with a Business Friendly Autism Certificate, in recognition of their support and inclusion for people with autism and additional support needs. An Lanntair ran three autism-friendly cinema showings last year, where noise levels are lowered and lights are left on, with access to a quiet room if anyone needs some downtime away from the screen. The films were carefully selected to avoid flashing lights or high noise levels, which could affect someone with autism or additional needs.
As well as further autism-friendly film showing on April 2nd, when Lego Movie 2 will be shown, An Lanntair will also be lighting their tower in blue throughout April to demonstrate their support and help to raise awareness.
The presentation of their certificate today was just one event in a busy few weeks for Autism Eileanan Siar, who have also run a series of education sessions in schools and a school poster competition – winning posters in English and Gaelic will be popping up in public places all over the islands.
On Friday 29th March there’s a coffee morning at Lewis Retirement Centre and schools, businesses and individuals are invited to take part in silly socks day at work to raise awareness. The same day there’s an exclusive hire of Adventure Island for children with autism and additional support needs, who will all be invited to wear their own silly socks on the night.
All the money raised from these events will go to events and activities for local children and adults affected by autism, a life-long condition which affects the way a person sees, feels and hears the world around them, as well as how a person communicates with and relates to other people.
A spokesperson for Autism Eileanan Siar said: “Autism not a disease, but is a spectrum condition, which means that, whilst all people with autism share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways. When a person has autism, they may look the same as everyone else, but their brain works differently, so this makes them behave and react differently.
“Communicating by language can be very difficult for someone with autism. They may find big crowds and noise very frightening and may move their bodies in ways that may look very strange. Routines are great comfort to someone with autism as little changes can be upsetting – things like drinking out of a different cup or having to go to an appointment when they should be eating lunch.
“Sometimes sights, sounds and smells can be overwhelming and can lead to meltdowns. They are not behaving badly or being naughty, they simply cannot cope with the sensory overload and don't know what to do.”
The picture shows Kevin Smith and Elly Fletcher of An Lanntair being presented with the Autism Friendly Business certificate by Fiona Bradbury, chair Donna Shearsmith, vice-chair Claire Morris and treasurer Lynne Smith of Autism Eileanan Siar.