Everyone at the National Autistic Society is incredibly proud how our support workers and school staff went above and beyond to help autistic people get through the pandemic. We’re delighted that Wendy Brisland, Abbie Williams and the team at our Glamorgan House day centre in Neath, south Wales, were recognised for their brilliant work in this area at the recent Great British Care Awards in Wales, and named as finalists in in The Frontline Leaders Award. Huge well done to the team.
Impact of coronavirus
While the pandemic has affected everyone’s lives, the crisis has had a disproportionate impact on autistic people and their families.
Autistic people, who can experience intense anxiety and extreme unease around unexpected change, often rely on routine to manage what can be an overwhelming world. So, the disruption, pace of change and uncertainty of the pandemic has been incredibly tough, particularly the early stages.
Stepping up to the challenge
Colleagues working across our schools and adult services took extraordinary steps during this difficult period to limit the impact that unexpected changes had on the people we support. And the team at National Autistic Society Cymru’s
Glamorgan House who support autistic people and provide opportunities to socialise and learn new skills, came up with some particularly creative ideas.
For instance, with local restaurants and takeaways forced to close, they decided to create their own so the people they support could keep up their routines. The team even made their own replica McDonald’s drive-thru, wore handmade uniforms and managed to source some packaging from McDonald’s stores to create an authentic experience.
II wasn’t only McDonald’s either. The team chose a different theme each week, creating an ice-cream parlour, a pick ‘n mix sweet stand, a hotdog stall and a replica Papa John’s/Domino’s pizza place. They also put on a Great British Bake Off-style event to mark VE Day, and even created a makeshift pub for a resident who likes to pop out for a pint once a week.
Glamorgan House is a place where autistic people can come for support, to socialise and learn new skills. People can choose from a range of vocational opportunities, all designed to help them experience community-based activities.
As well as benefiting the people at Glamorgan House, the team also arranged for people supported by our services in the Neath Port Talbot area to collect food or have it delivered. The whole project was also brilliant for staff morale and everybody’s mental health at a time when the whole world was on pause.
I’m delighted for the team and know it meant a lot to hear the Great British Care Awards judges praising their innovative efforts to ensure continuity of care and maintain routines.
While this story is very much related to brilliant efforts in the lockdowns, it’s important to remember that coronavirus is unfortunately still here. The ending of legal restrictions is another big change which some autistic people have been very concerned about, particularly those who have other conditions which make them clinically vulnerable.
It’s important that everyone this and respects that some autistic people may want to maintain social distancing, continue to wear a mask or ask that someone supporting them wears one. Without this understanding, some autistic people could really struggle to maintain their routines and do the things they love.
For more information about autism or to find out more about the National Autistic Society’s services in Wales, visit autism.org.uk
by Nick Haake Wales services manager at the National Autistic Society