Rita Jordan: More funding is needed for Asperger's support services|
SWANTON MORLEY, Norfolk, UK: One of Britain's top autism experts called for more funding for support services for people with Asperger's syndrome (AS) at a conference in Norfolk on May 11.
Professor Rita Jordan joined other experts from around the country and members of the Asperger East Anglia group - including parents whose children have AS and adults with the condition - for the group's first conference at Hunters Hall in Swanton Morley, near Dereham.
More than 140 guests attended the conference, designed to raise awareness of AS, watching presentations from Dr Jordan; a psychology teacher and counsellor, Maxine Aston, and a Cambridge University research associate, Dr Johnny Lawson. Guests also took part in workshops on subjects ranging from educational issues to art therapy.
Dr Jordan, who is professor of autism studies at Birmingham University, said that more support should be provided for people with milder autistic spectrum disorders, including AS.
She said: "Most people have now heard of autism, but the needs of individuals where the autism is not so overt, but nevertheless affects functioning just as profoundly, are just as important."
She said the stress of not being able to communicate made living with AS very difficult.
"Although their language is often good, people with AS find non-verbal communication difficult. They often suffer from stress and anxiety which stems from their difficulty socialising."
Dr Jordan said that, in particular, more services needed to be provided for adults with the condition, saying it was "very hard" for adults with AS to access those support services which did exist.
She added that parents whose children had AS were much less likely to be offered support than parents caring for children with other conditions.
Marcella Olive, who founded Asperger East Anglia 10 years ago, said the group was very grateful to Dr Jordan for coming to the conference, and she added her voice to the call for more support.
She said: "AS is not easy to diagnose or to understand and, for both parents and people with the condition, it involves making a lifelong commitment to both being accepted and accepting a place in society. We need services at all levels - people need support at college and work as well as school."
Olive added that Asperger East Anglia had set up an employers' support scheme to help people with AS fit into the workplace.
(Source: Eastern Daily Press, May 12, 2005)