[A]n event to launch ‘Autism Around the Combe’ brought Millom and the surrounding area one step closer to becoming an autism-friendly community.
The event publically recognised local people and businesses who are ‘autism-friendly’.
‘Autism Around the Combe’ is a community-led initiative driven by local professionals, parents and carers who are working to create the country’s first autism-friendly community.
Jane McFie from ‘Autism Around the Combe’ said: “The launch event was to celebrate autism locally. It gave us an opportunity to let people know about ‘Autism Around the Combe’ and how we are working to improve support for autism in the area which involves working with local people and businesses to make sure that all individuals are accepted.”
Mayor of Copeland, Mike Starkie opened the launch event, which took place at Millom Rugby League Club. Mayor of Millom Cllr Doug Wilson also attended the launch and thanked the group for all their work towards making Millom and the surrounding area an autism-friendly community.
A key part of the event was recognising autism champions; local people who have been supportive, understanding or helpful to autistic individuals and their families.
Beth Evans from ‘Autism Around the Combe’ said: “‘Autism Around the Combe is great’- It gives us a place to seek and share advice with people in similar circumstances. We nominated three people as autism champions for a number of reasons, for example we nominated Leigh Young from Parkview Nursery because of the progress our son has made under her guidance.”
The event highlighted the fact that local businesses play an important role in communities becoming autism-friendly. Members of ‘Autism Around the Combe’ created a window sign to identify the places that have been recognised as being helpful to those with autism and their families. Businesses acknowledged on the day included dental practices, local hairdressers and tourist spots in the area.
Dr David Smith from Horn Hill Dental Practice said: “Here at the practice we have an inclusive attitude to delivering care locally for as many people as possible. We recognise that having to travel to receive care can be especially difficult for families of children with special needs. We provide services for an increasing number of autistic patients and those with other disabilities, and we do our best to ensure there is a consistency of personnel, which is important for making people on the autistic spectrum feel comfortable. We also have a programme to provide health advice within the community, to prevent people needing dental treatment in the first place!”
Jane McFie added: “It’s so important to recognise autism-friendly businesses because when you have a child on the autism spectrum you can become quite isolated as you’re not sure what it’s like to take your child to a café or tourist place. What make a business autismfriendly is the people in it and their understanding of autism- today gave us the opportunity to celebrate those businesses and local people.”
Members of ‘Autism Around the Combe’ hope that this is the start of a journey working with local families and businesses in Millom and the surrounding area to achieve total inclusion.