An ambitious and innovative approach to place people with autism at the heart of communities in Wigan Borough has been recognised nationally.
The borough’s Autism Partnership Board is celebrating being shortlisted in the National Autism Professional Awards for the work it does to improve the lives and communities of people with autism.
A creative and powerful movement for change has been developed in the borough, driven by the partnership board, which demonstrates a genuine focus on capturing the gifts and talents of people with autism and places people with autism at the heart of all decision making.
To date more than 2000 people have taken part in this unique one hour awareness session that helps people to learn more about autism. The session includes a number of fun and interactive exercises and all attendees are invited to pledge to do something positive to help make Wigan a more autism friendly place.
The sessions are co-produced and co-delivered by people with autism.
Virtual tours of key public buildings including shopping centres, leisure centres and schools, reducing anxiety for people with autism and creating opportunities, have also been created.
The borough also encouraged businesses to take part in last year’s Autism Hour by doing things such as turning down the music or dimming the lights for 60 minutes.
This bold and pioneering approach underpins Wigan’s ambition to become one of the first autism friendly towns in the UK.
The Autism Partnership Board is driven by people with autism and includes representatives from Wigan Council, CCG, 5 Boroughs Partnership, Bridgewater, GMP and Fire Service, local charities and community groups.
The work is all part of efforts by Wigan Council to make people more aware of autism and provide a variety of ways to let people with autism play a vital role in their community.
More than 4,000 people in the borough have autism. It is a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people and how they experience the world around them.
Cllr Keith Cunliffe, cabinet member for adult social care, said: “The autism partnership board is driven by people with autism with lived experience and those who care for them. All of whom are really passionate to raise awareness about autism and how they can be best supported.
“It is our ambition to make Wigan Borough the first autism friendly borough in the country. Through our close work with many children and adults with autism we are very aware of the amazing gifts and talents they have as well as some of the difficulties they encounter living in our borough. We believe these can be addressed through increased awareness and practical changes to services.
“The training sessions and virtual tours add to the innovative projects which will help to break down barriers for people with autism and help them be better connected into their community.”