Hannah BarnettHannah Barnett, Head of Operations for Adult Services, explains how our charity has been supporting autistic adults to lead the lives they choose over the last year, in ways that are tailored to them, in our services across the UK.

 

A lot has been happening in our adult services in the past financial year, from a brand new residential service to award-winning enterprise ventures.

It's difficult to measure the impact we are having on the autistic adults we support solely through figures. But 1,700 autistic people across the UK having access to personalised, committed support through our adult services in 2014-15 is probably a good place to start.

We're getting more and more creative in the ways we tailor our support to people, and I am thrilled to be part of some of the new developments we've seen this year, including our fantastic shop and gallery in Leicestershire. This is just one of the ways we’re able to extend our reach to the wider autism community – local autistic artists not directly supported by NAS services have been able to sell their work through the gallery.

What I think really brings to light the strength of our specialist services though, is seeing the individual achievements made by each person we support – and we celebrate every one, however big or small. Speak to any of our staff and yes, they may well tell you it was a long time coming, but they will all have stories to tell about the progress that adults we support have made.

One autistic adult who we support at his home is passionate about running. He frequently ran out at night time, where he would often get lost and picked up by the police. Rather than trying to stop him from doing something he clearly enjoyed, the staff wanted to find ways to adapt his support to turn it into a safe and positive pursuit.

So, we recruited a support worker who shared the same passion of running – he ran marathons, so we were quite confident he'd be able to keep up with the person we support! We also located a running club that was accepting of autistic adults. Tailoring important aspects of his support carefully to him meant that he stopped running at night, because he had a purposeful focus and had started to enjoy running during the day with his new group.

And that's just one example of how tirelessly the staff work to determine where each person's own interests or skills lie and turn them into something worthwhile and productive. This can be said across all the different types of support services the NAS offer.

"A big thank you to the staff at The National Autistic Society for all your support over the past three years, not just for my son, but from us as a family as well. His mentor has gone above and beyond to make sure my son has every chance of completing his time at De Montfort University…having the right [staff] who you can trust and put your faith into makes all the difference.” – Parent of someone we support through our student support service

It's a testament to the dedication all of our staff show to making a difference to autistic adults' lives – they go out of their way to find meaningful experiences that will develop their independence, sense of self-worth and enjoyment of life.

While education is provided through our schools, our adult services work closely alongside them, and both share the common aim of offering as many people on the autism spectrum a seamless journey through life, with the support and understanding they need to live the lives they choose.

And I am looking forward to seeing what positive new things the coming financial year will bring for the adults we support and the wider autism community.

Hannah Barnett
Head of Operations – Adult Services
The National Autistic Society
www.autism.org.uk/services

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