By Maria Wilkinson
When I was growing up, we had a family friend who, for as long as I can remember, had been described as ‘odd’ or ‘strange’ by those who knew him.
It almost became the norm when anyone was talking about him.
“Oh, I know who you mean – the weird one.”
“Yeah, he’s a bit odd isn’t he? Not like the rest of them.”
“He was just asking me the same thing over and over again, like a broken record.”
“Did you see how blindingly drunk he got? Barely said a word to anyone the whole party and then has to be pretty much carried home at the end.”
He was and still is a nice guy but quite clearly he has always been ‘different’ to almost everyone else I know.
As an adult and even without knowing too much about the disorder, I began to realise that he likely has some form of autism, sadly having slipped through the cracks without any formal diagnosis and somehow muddling his way through life into his 40s as best he can.
Now, after attending one of Adelphi Care Services free autism awareness training sessions, I am almost certain of it.
Trainer Louise Almond, who was presenting to a large group of teachers in Shrewsbury the day before the new school term began, started by summing up autism in one simple phrase.
“Autism is seeing the world differently.”
Adelphi Care Services is the leading service provider in Shropshire for adults with autism, Aspergers and learning disabilities through residential, at home or day care support.
Part of its work is the provision of free autism awareness training sessions for anybody who requests it, offering practical and easily implemented advice on recognising, supporting and managing those with the condition.
Anybody, whether from a school, youth group, emergency service, business or local authority, can benefit from a greater understanding of autistic spectrum disorders.
Louise starts the session with a brief history of the condition, including when it was first officially recognised in the 1940s through the work of Hans Asperger and Leo Kanner and how right up until the 1960s it was treated as a form of juvenile schizophrenia, with the children locked away in institutions.
I found it quite shocking to discover that it was the 1980s before any serious consideration was given towards treatment and management of autism and Asperger syndrome, rather than just removing those with it from society.
During the course of the half-day session, Louise takes you through the different types of autism, the different behaviours, what to look for and ‘triggers’ and, perhaps most importantly, what can be done to minimise the stress of sufferers and allow them to find their way through life as easily as possible.
“Reality is strange for an autistic person. They live in their own world with their own rule and to them, it is the rest of us who are different and not abiding by the rules,” said Louise.
Sometimes small changes can make a difference.
For example, not wearing nail polish, perfume or patterned clothes for those who suffer sensory overload or just keeping a simple structure and routine.
Something else Louise said also got my attention:
“Understanding the reasons for the behaviour is vital to help prevent difficulties.”
After the session, I can really see the benefits of the training for anyone who might come across someone with autism or Asperger’s as part of their work.
It was only half a day, cost nothing but my time and I came away with a much greater understanding of what can be done to make life easier not only for those with the condition but for the rest of us in helping them.
For more information about the course or to book Louise to come to your business, contact Adelphi Care Services on (01743) 465299.
J&PR are a Shropshire PR agency covering Shrewsbury, Telford, north Shropshire, south Shropshire and parts of Mid and North Wales. As well as working with businesses, organisations and events across the region on PR campaigns J&PR run regular DIY PR Training Courses and DIY Digital PR Training Courses at venues in the county.