National Autistic Society Scotland has today been awarded £45,000 in emergency funding from the Scottish Government to provide important support to autistic people, carers and families during the lockdown.

The disruption of daily life and routine resulting from the pandemic and the ‘lockdown’ has been very challenging for autistic people and their families, 70% of whom are struggling with mental health difficulties and often intense anxiety.

Research from the charity has also shown that two thirds of autistic people in Scotland feel socially isolated and this was before social distancing was introduced in light of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Scottish Government has recognised the fact that many autistic adults and families with autistic children are extremely vulnerable at this time and awarded the charity funds to provide specialist and moderated online support groups to reach 500 autistic people carers and families.

The online groups will allow staff to share information on staying safe and healthy as well as helping those with mental health needs and anxieties.

In addition, the online groups will create a place for people to connect and chat about whatever they wish to - from film & TV, to cooking and other hobbies. They’re a great way for people to build confidence, make connections and help with communication skills. It’s also a way for families to share tips on looking after their autistic child,

Free to join, the online groups are open to autistic people, carers and families. There are online groups representing different geographical areas, young people, parents, as well as particular interest groups such as ‘Film club’ as well as a Girls Group.

The Cabinet Secretary for Health, Jeane Freeman said:

“Autistic people find the extreme change in their daily lives more difficult to deal with, which is why we have fast-tracked this funding to improve the consistency and availability of support. These are unprecedented times and it is important autistic people know this support is there to help them and how to access it."

Nick Ward, Director, National Autistic Society Scotland said:

"This hugely welcome funding will allow us to increase our support we are able to offer autistic people and families across Scotland to help them through this difficult time.

Many autistic people are feeling the effects of the dramatic changes in their lives from pandemic and in many cases struggle with mental health difficulties or are very isolated within their communities.

This funding will mean we can drastically increase the number of online Social Groups, where people can meet and talk about the things that are important to them, form meaningful relationships and feel more connected.

Our staff will also be on hand to offer support and tips around managing mental health and well-being and importantly staying safe. With public services incredibly stretched in their response to the pandemic, it is now more than ever that support from charities such as ourselves is desperately needed."


Blair Spence, 19, Maxwell Park, Glasgow

"I’ve been going to the Social Groups for about 9 months, they’ve really helped my confidence and conversation skills as well as make new friends.

The new online groups have been really fun. There are about 10 of us in the group and it works really well. It’s good to stay in touch with other people and we’ve done some exciting things with the group leaders like a virtual tour of an Aquarium and around San Francisco including going across the Golden Gate Bridge!

I really look forward to the weekly online groups and I would recommend to other autistic people to give them a go."

Notes to editors:

For more information, please contact Rob Holland the National Autistic Society Scotland at rob.holland@nas.org.uk or by calling 07958057363.

About

The National Autistic Society Scotland is a leading charity for autistic people in Scotland and their families. They provide local specialist help, information and care across Scotland to autistic people, their families and carers. Their Education Rights Service provides impartial, confidential information, advice and support on education rights and entitlements. www.autism.org.uk 

Autism, social isolation and mental health

Research by National Autistic Society Scotland as part of the ‘Too Much Information’ campaign in 2016 found that 66% of autistic adults in Scotland felt socially isolated.

Research by Autistica UK (Personal tragedies, public crisis 2017) found that 70% of autistic people also had accompanying mental health difficulties.

Autistic young people and adults can sometimes face challenges making friends and creating their own independent social life. In the right environment and with the right support, however, they can thrive amongst their peers, and develop confidence to do new and purposeful things.

Online Social Groups

Currently the Charity runs a number of Social Groups and Coffee Clubs across the country all of which are online or will shortly be moved online. NAS Scotland Connect will build on this activity so that 500 autistic people, carers and family members are benefiting from online support.

Social groups meet regularly (weekly usually) and equip members for living independent lives by providing opportunities to form close relationships, as well as developing self- confidence and social skills.

The groups are user-led and members decide together what activities they will do facilitated by a staff member who in turn is supported by trained volunteers. Staff are also there to provide information and referrals where necessary so that people can stay safe and look after their mental health and wellbeing.

For more information and to sign up for an online group email: ScotlandSocialGroups@nas.org.uk

Or visit:
https://www.autism.org.uk/services/scotland/community-projects.aspx

What is autism?

  • Autism is a lifelong disability which affects how people communicate and interact with the world.
  • There are approximately 58,000 autistic people in Scotland.
  • All autistic people have difficulties with communication and social interaction.
  • Autism is a spectrum condition. This means autistic people have their own strengths and varying and complex needs, from 24-hour care to simply needing clearer communication and a little longer to do things at work and school.
  • Although everyone is different, people on the autism spectrum may:
    • Be under or oversensitive to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours, which can make everyday life extremely difficult
    • be unable to or find it harder to speak, need longer to process information or find it hard to hold conversations
    • experience intense anxiety around unexpected change and in social situations
    • become so overwhelmed that they experience debilitating physical and emotional ‘meltdowns’ or ‘shutdowns’.
  • Without the right support or understanding, autistic people can miss out on an education, struggle to find work and become extremely isolated.