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#FindYourBrave: Calderdale Autism Summit 2020

Young people with autism spectrum conditions shared their experiences of services that support them at Calderdale’s second annual Autism Summit on Wednesday 5 February.

Representatives from Calderdale’s education, community and health services gathered at North Bridge Leisure Centre in Halifax to hear personal stories from young people who rely on their services, and their dreams for the future.

This follow a similar event last year where health, care and education professional made personal pledges to improve the support young people receive across our area. This year, the summit heard how things had improved since last year’s event and discussed what’s still to do.

One of the young people who worked to organise the event, Anya MacDonald, is hopeful that the event will improve how services for autistic people work in Calderdale:

“I hope today sets off a pattern for service users and services to communicate more to improve services in Calderdale. It feels good to help encourage other autistic people to be able to speak for themselves and share their own dreams of what they want.”

The summit was part of Calderdale’s celebration of National Children’s Mental Health Week (3-9 February 2020). The theme for this year’s awareness week is #FindYourBrave; one that the team of young people who drove the summit certainly showed in taking advantage of their opportunity to have an impact on the services they use.

“I first got the impression when I met everyone (who made up the young people’s working group) that some people weren’t used to being asked their opinion”, said Anya.

“I think it’s important to raise everyone’s confidence, because they do have a voice and it is really valuable and they should be given opportunities to share it.”

“Hopefully it gave them (services) the impression that we can communicate what we think should be done for ourselves.”

As part of the event representatives from Calderdale’s education, community and health services were also able to get an insight into what it’s like to live with autism through the Autism Reality Experience.

People taking part in the experience are given tasks to do while distracted by flashing lights, noises, smells and textures, simulating the heightened sensory input experienced by those with autism.

There are also plans for the experience to return later in the year, when members of the public will be able to take part.

People give their thoughts on the Autism Reality Experience when it appeared at the 2019 Calderdale Autism Summit.