Autism Cymru proves 'remarkable success'|
ABERYSTWYTH, Wales: Autism is a subject never far from the headlines nowadays. Various "causes" and "cures" for the condition, together with their relative merits, are regularly discussed by practitioners, parents and others.
Autism Cymru, a national charity dedicated to working in Wales, however, prefers to distance itself from such debates. Instead, and uniquely, the Aberystwyth-based charity has sought to provide planning, information and training to enable people to work together in collaborative and evidenced-based ways in an effort to improve the lives of the several thousands of people living in Wales with the disorder.
Established in May 2001, the charity has already experienced remarkable success. It was recently one of four charities short-listed in the Best New UK Charity category in the UK Charity Awards.
One of the reasons Autism Cymru was nominated for the award was its supportive work with the Welsh Assembly Government which will lead to the expected implementation next year of the world's first government-led national strategy for autism.
Interestingly, recent calls for similar government-led initiatives in the autism field in England and Scotland are just beginning to be made following behind the example already being set in Wales.
Another example of its innovative working is Autism Cymru's collaborative work with local social services departments and health authorities to improve the lives of those affected by the disorder.
In West Wales alone, key autism development posts have been appointed to lead the way in specific public sector provision for people with autism.
So successful its work been that Autism Cymru has been asked to work on similar projects with other authorities across Wales.
Another world first has been the launch of awares.org, a national web-based information service for all those affected by autism either professionally or personally.
This evolving site is designed to provide information and other useful resources on autism in Wales. The site is easy to navigate and has an average of 4,500 visitors a week.
Planned for early next year, an on-line research seminar will take place led by Professor Anthony Bailey from Oxford University, Dr Rita Jordan from the University of Birmingham and Dr Dawn Wimpory from the University of Bangor.
Autism Cymru's highly-successful education and training programme has played a significant role in educating practitioners, families and those with autism.
The programme received the enthusiastic endorsement of the Welsh Assembly Government Education Minister, Jane Davidson, and to date 1,400 people throughout Wales have taken part in these opportunities.
The culmination of the current education and training programme will take place at Cardiff City Hall in May 2004, when the charity hosts a major international conference on strategy and practice.
As befits its ground-breaking work, the event boasts a plethora of world-renowned speakers, including Professor Christopher Gillberg, Dr Tony Attwood, Professor Digby Tantum and Dr Rita Jordan.
Ministers from the Welsh Assembly Government will be speaking about the pioneering aspirations for autism in Wales. In addition to the keynote lectures, some wonderful workshops are being made available to delegates.
In all, an opportunity to celebrate some of the best in Welsh practice.
The conference is being supported by various bodies including the leading autism book publisher, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, who are arranging book-signing sessions by some of their key authors.
For further information about the conference, contact Sue Gallagher on 01970 625256 (e-mail email@example.com) or Jennie Thomas on 02920 463263 (e-mail Jennie@autiscymru.org)
The chief executive of Autism Cymru is Hugh Morgan.
(Source: The Western Mail, October 30, 2003)