Disability
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‘We want to make Exeter the first autism friendly city in the UK’

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Written By: AWalmesley  17/ 06/ 15

A campaign has been launched to make Exeter the first autism friendly city in the UK.

Staff at community charity, Ceda, want people and organisations to become more supportive of those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other related conditions.

It part of a £50,000 lottery-funded project to help people living and affected by behaviour disorders as well as educating the wider community about the conditions.

Trish Oliver, of Ceda’s behaviour support service BIS:net, said: “As a society we have made huge strides forward to be inclusive of people with physical disabilities. But for those with hidden impairments we have not made that progress. We think it is the right time to make the shift.”

The charity, based on Exeter Business Park, is working with organisations including Sainsbury’s, Exeter CAB and the Bike Shed Theatre to help them to welcome people with ASD and similar disorders. It is creating an award scheme to recognise businesses whose staff are trained to support these people.

Trish said: “If you unwittingly exclude people with autism you can lose a lot of money. For example if someone has a bad experience in a supermarket or theatre, in which they are judged, they may not go back. But a good experience tends to have the opposite effect.

“Making minor adjustments can lead to huge differences for people with autism. We would like to help them to live independently and be able to go out in public without it ending badly.”

It is also supporting those living with autism to address the various challenges it poses.

Trish, 55, whose adult son has autism, said: “As he was growing up, we didn’t quite understand his behaviour and how to deal with it. If a child is getting stressed, the worst thing you can do is to shout at them.”

Parents and carers are invited to attend specialised workshops at Belmont Chapel on Friday to equip them to manage ‘meltdowns’, keep active children occupied and support social development.

Sam Harris, BIS:net manager, said: “Our message is about not judging people’s behaviours by social and cultural standards or abilities. It’s about supporting those who think differently to still access the society and community around them. After all, support is one of the most positive aspects of human nature. If we do this, we will continue to live in a rich, diverse society. To us, diversity and difference is what makes us human.”

The pledge comes after Sidmouth actor, Alex Sharp, beat off competition from Bradley Cooper and Bill Nighy to win a Tony Award for playing a teenager with an Asperger-like syndrome.

The 25-year-old took home the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play for playing Christopher in the stage adaptation of the book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition that affects social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour. It is estimated about one in every 100 people in the UK has ASD.

Source: Express and Echo http://www.exeterexpressandecho.co.uk/want-make-Exeter-autism-friendly-city-UK/story-26715650-detail/story.html

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