Finding out about autism and support services in Wales

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Mar 3 2005

Jenny Rees, Western Mail

IT IS thought that there are around 18,000 children and adults in Wales with an autistic spectrum disorder or ASD. Yet surprisingly little is known about what causes the condition, which includes Asperger syndrome.

Autism is often a misunderstood condition. Those with the disorder can be thought of as “odd” or “clumsy” yet they are simply having problems communicating in the conventional way.
It is this lack of skill or inability to understand and use non-verbal and verbal communication and interpret social behaviour, which affects their ability to interact with others.

Imagine then being a parent who’s just discovered that your child has autism. Your world is understandably turned upside down and your hopes for the future suddenly become a nightmare.

But having recovered from the initial shock and come to terms with the fact that your life and your child’s is never likely to be the same again, your next step is likely to be to want to learn about the condition, including finding as many useful sources of support as possible.

It is for this reason that Autism Cymru, Wales’ national charity for autism, set up Awares.org – the All Wales Autism Resource – in December 2002, when it was launched by the Minister for Health and Social Services.

Awares is a free online service which provides access and information for people with autism.

It seeks to include every single source of information and help the length and breadth of Wales, as well as linking with sources of information outside Wales.

However, Awares is not intended solely for parents. Indeed, it aims to help anyone connected with autism, directly or indirectly.

These include social services practitioners, healthcare practitioners, teachers, doctors, nurses and those with autism themselves.

Data is set out by local authority area, so if you’re a nurse in Carmarthenshire and you’d like to speak to a social worker with experience of working with adults with autism you simply log on to Awares and follow the links to find out contact details of the relevant professional in your area.

As well as providing “historical” information Awares is also used as a platform for online conferences and discussion groups, including the Wales National Fora for schools.

A number of successful online conferences have also taken place, including one with Plaid Cymru AM Dr Dai Lloyd, pictured, who also practises as a GP.

A major international online conference is planned for October this year, which will be the world’s largest online autism conference.

The five-day event is free of charge and will include discussions with Professor Uta Frith, Professor Simon Baron-Cohen and Donna Williams among others.

Since its launch Awares has gone from strength to strength, recording an average of around 16,000 genuine visitors every month.

In short, Awares.org is the single most comprehensive and detailed source of information available about autism in Wales.

For further information about Awares or Autism Cymru please log on to www.awares.org
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alex

By alex
March 3, 2005

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