Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Summer is approaching and with it the worry for many families about what will happen when schools and colleges close or when regular carers go on holiday leaving those with autism feeling uncertain and often lonely.

Whilst RfA holiday schemes will be supporting hundreds of children in Birmingham and London with a week of specialist holiday play, most families want more and many adults find themselves with nothing at all to do over the summer weeks.

Going away on holiday can be extremely tricky when a family member hates change. RfA can and does help with practical strategies to make travel a little more bearable. Just remembering to say that not only will you be coming home again but that everything will still be there and the same on your return can be very reassuring as can photos of exactly where you are going and not saying just that you are going to the airport to get a plane but that you are going to the airport to wait and then you will catch a plane, a very different scenario and helpful in keeping stress levels under control!

It is these seemingly little things, one week of appropriate holiday play; strategies to make travel less of a nightmare; a couple of hours a week where a teenager can be themselves with friends who understand them; volunteers willing to support a child to the park for an hour or two giving them a bit of fun and the family a break; caring and expert answers to difficult questions; someone to talk to when you need them; all of these little things go some way to making the lives of those affected by autism and those who love them, a bit easier.

Although I would love us to do more of the 'big' things such as providing really excellent carers every day round the clock for those who need it or running schools that really cater for the needs of children with autism or supporting isolated adults whose behaviour is so challenging that they are excluded from most areas of life to live in housing that is designed to suit their needs; the reality is that, for now, I have to be happy that we do those 'little' things incredibly reliably and incredibly well.

It will never be enough for me or for our users but when a teenager is able to say of one of our Birmingham Youth Clubs:

'Like here nobodies laughing at people about who they are.'

It speaks volumes of his previous experiences and of how we manage for a little time in his week to get it right.

I know that those children and young people lucky enough to have managed to get a place on our schemes and those adults who will continue to attend sports groups, arts groups and social groups run by my amazing team will have fun over the summer and I hope that those who have not been quite so lucky this time will see us more able to provide for them in the future.

This time of year always makes me feel hopeful and despite all the doom and gloom around I do hope we will be able to grow our services and respond to all the need out there. If we can help you with either the little or the big things then do get in touch and in the meantime I wish you a happy, warm, safe and relaxing summer.

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