Conference in Harrogate tackles issues around autism

The NAS Harrogate branch with Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones. Picture: John Furlong
The NAS Harrogate branch with Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones. Picture: John Furlong

Harrogate’s Ashville College played host to a conference dedicated to the challenges facing people with autism.

Organised by the Harrogate branch of the National Autistic Society, there were several invited guests present on the day, confronting some of the issues raised by affected young people and families.

Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones was in attendance through a personal connection, as he is familiar with some of the problems facing one of the NAS members.

He said: I support the work of this group, so I wanted to look in to see what the committee have done very well to bring this together.

“They have a good programme which has brought together lots of different community groups and NYCC through social services.

“The transition from child services to adult services is not always smooth, so it is good to be able to focus on that in the conference.

“Also, big change is not always easy and needs to be handled sensitively.”

The intention of the conference, which lasted the entire day, was to encourage people to think differently about autism and what people living with autism experience, including the transition from childhood to adulthood.

There were speakers at the event, all tackling various areas associated with the condition, from employment to local services, and how best to help people help themselves.

National brokerage coordinator for the NAS Lesley Waugh spoke at the event. She said: “Person centred plans should be the kind of things that people need to have in their lives to keep them happy, and from there you can make some really good best guesses about the kind of things the person might want to do in the future.

“How can we make decision for people without them being involved? And family and friends are crucial in that role of planning for somebody.

“If I leave any message it is to include the people you are supporting. By not doing, plans go awry. If you include people you often get success.”

North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) also had a presence at the conference.

NYCC service development manager Joss Harbron spoke about developing a strategy for all ages to help prepare people for adulthood. This will be published next week and will run to 2020.

NYCC are also tackling some of the problems facing people with autism by appointing autism champions.

Ms Harbron said: “We have 63 autism champions in our assessment teams who are spending a lot of time building on the needs of people with autism.”