Visitors to The Piece Hall were given an insight into autism on Thursday 10 January, as the Autism Reality Experience was brought to Halifax to raise awareness of the condition.
This provided members of the public and professionals with some insight of the sensory overload experienced by people with conditions on the autistic spectrum, and hopefully change the way they think about autism.
People taking part were given simple tasks to do while distracted by flashing lights, noises, smells and textures, simulating the heightened sensory input experienced by those with autism.
Kelsea Wall, who travelled to The Piece Hall to take part in the experience, said:
“It’s good to get first-hand experience of what people with autism actually go through.
“I’ve got family members with autism, so it’s nice to be in their shoes and experience the daily challenges they face.”
Tanya Stagg, a parent of a child with autism who took part in the experience said:
“It really does bring it home how hard it is for people with autism to retain that kind of information… having a neuro-diverse brain affects you so much, and it would be nice if more [staff from] schools took part to raise their awareness.”
At the same time leaders from Calderdale Council and local NHS organisations came together at the Orange Box with clinicians, head teachers, professionals, parent and carers groups, some community representatives, providers and elected members as part of the Action on Autism Summit to explore how they can work together to improve how people with autism are cared for in Calderdale.
Rhona Radley, Deputy Head of Service Improvement at NHS Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group, who worked with Calderdale Council to bring the experience to The Piece Hall, said:
“We held this summit to challenge together the way we think and to commit to take action to improve children and young people’s lives. We want everyone in Calderdale to work together to improve the way we do things for children, young people and their families and we brought The Autism Reality Experience to Calderdale in order to get a glimpse of how hard life can be for people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
“Many people who can make a difference to the way people with this condition are cared for had a really eye-opening and emotional experience on the autism bus, and that’s helped them to understand why things need to improve.
“This event was the start of that conversation. Some people say that words are cheap; we know that it’s the ideas and action that have been generated by the work that we did at this event that will make a difference.”
Julie Killey, Calderdale Council’s Acting Assistant Director of Commissioning and Partnerships, said:
“Supporting people with autism and their families is a priority for us. We will continue to work with Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group and other organisations to help young people achieve their best.
“Parents, carers and young people helped us shape the event and, more importantly, will continue to be heavily involved as we introduce the changes needed. Our work with Unique Ways, Family Voice Calderdale and the National Autistic Society will help us prioritise and drive through the improvements that will have the most impact.”
Following on from the summit an action group made up of parents, carers and young people with autism will meet in the spring to work with leaders and give feedback on any improvements to the autism diagnosis and treatment that come out of the summit.