Photo of two young women at a fundraising event, purple quote


We spoke to our Head of Supporter Fundraising, Kate Vickers, about the upcoming World Autism Awareness Week 1-7 April 2019. Kate, who has two autistic brothers, tells us why the week is so important to her.

What does World Autism Awareness Week mean to you?

An awful lot! My team launched the first ever World Autism Awareness Week in 2015 and I could not be prouder of all that we have achieved since then. It has grown from a fundraising campaign based around ‘Onesie Wednesday’, raising around £100,000, to a global date in the diary, and now raises over £300,000 per year. Not only does that money go on to fund vital National Autistic Society work; World Autism Awareness Week is the peak time of year to unite our supporters and campaigners in getting our message and our cause out there.

Most importantly, I am proud of what it means to autistic people and their families.

It’s an opportunity for the National Autistic Society to not only raise funds for the cause, but also to bring everyone’s attention to the realities of autism: the challenges (which vary greatly in their nature and extent), the talents of autistic people and the happy moments that autistic individuals and families share with us. I get to meet a lot of our supporters and hear some amazing stories. Hands down, my favourite part of not just World Autism Awareness Week, but my whole job.

What are you most looking forward to with this year’s World Autism Awareness Week?

I’m really excited that the Spectrum Night Walks (our flagship World Autism Awareness Week event) will be taking place in Cardiff, Glasgow and Belfast (as well as Manchester and London) so we’re representing in all the nations this year! I’ll be in London again come 6 April, which I’m so looking forward to.

The Spectrum Night Walks are just the most positive and lovely events to attend. You are surrounded by people who are so passionate about supporting us and raising awareness. Some of the outfits are incredible! And I love any excuse to go crazy with the glitter… as long as it’s in our brand colours!

What is your proudest achievement with World Autism Awareness Week?

This is not my achievement per se – World Autism Awareness Week is brought about each year through a whole team of people here at the National Autistic Society! – but I think I would say the work we do on World Autism Awareness Week in schools.

We began to focus on schools during World Autism Awareness Week in 2016 and since then, we have made sure that that aspect of the campaign is prioritised and planned in detail. It makes me happy and proud to think that the teaching resources and fundraising activities that are adopted by thousands of schools have potentially supported so many autistic children.

Not only that, but encouraging primary and secondary schools to teach their students more about autism could have an exponential effect when it comes to bettering levels of autism understanding and acceptance. I find that part of our work very exciting and gratifying.

What should our supporters look out for if they want to get involved?

Right now, I think information around World Autism Awareness Week is pretty hard to miss, for anyone who visits our website or follows us on social media. There are a few different ways of getting involved but I believe the most flexible and accessible way of supporting us would be to take on 7K for 700K.

7K for 700K is a virtual challenge that asks supporters to run, cycle, walk or swim 7 kilometres this World Autism Awareness Week in support of the 700,000 autistic people across the UK. Participants can take on the 7km all at once, or spread out the distance across the week. Or if you’re looking for a bigger challenge, why not up the ante and make it 17km, 70km or even 70,000 steps? There’s no fundraising target to hit – just a £12 registration fee.

My favourite 7K-er would have to be the lovely Thomas Ivor, aged 9, who took on 7km of cycling, 7km of swimming and 7km of running all in one day to support us. Thomas is autistic and he is just the most amazing little guy. There are loads of other stories to check out on the website too – please have a read and if you’re feeling inspired… you know what to do!

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