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'Autism Friendly Kibworth', sharing experiences

In September over 40 people from Kibworth came together to celebrate the different lives of people and families living with autism and the wider spectrum the condition displays.

The community event was organised by a group of local residents involved in raising awareness about or affected by autism. Their aims were to have better communication amongst themselves but also within the village; share experiences; and improve the lives of families, carers and individuals within the spectrum of autism in Kibworth. The group wanted to acknowledge families and individuals, giving them an opportunity to better know each other and learn from their experiences.

The main event was held at The Well, and included volunteers within the spectrum of autism; music by local artists, donated cakes and an atmosphere which helped people feel comfortable in sharing their experiences and to consider ways to improve communication and peer support in Kibworth. Emma Dowman, manageress of The Well, said, “We were keen to network with all kinds of local people living with or caring about Autism.  Our highest priority is to work with people who are most affected, listening carefully to what the needs are and working together to see what can be addressed.

One of the suggestions that emerged from the day was to create a carers networking group meeting twice a month initially to exchange views, give support and offer respite as carers. Another suggestion was for a Saturday play club for youngsters with Autism and severe learning difficulties, and their parents/carers.
These sessions will be delivered by interested residents and the Leicestershire Autistic Society, and managed on a rota basis, so that the care of dependents during these sessions is also shared. Those attending agreed on the importance of being able to share experiences, ideas and issues in a safe and local setting, easy to reach and where they can feel welcome.

Local shops displayed in their windows multi-coloured, multi-shaped hands, symbolising the diversity of people living with the condition. A brief list of actions that businesses and people in general can do to make a friendlier environment for people with autism was also on display. We’d now like to roll this out to other businesses and on a more permanent basis.

Dr Kevin Feltham, Chairman of the parish council and county councillor, created a Facebook page to raise awareness about autism and to support residents who want to get involved. He says, “Autism Friendly Kibworth is supported by the local parish council. I’m excited to see local High Street businesses and families involved in this initiative which is beginning to help us all appreciate the spectrum of autism, and to help support those with autism and their families in our friendly community.

The Leicestershire Autistic Society is providing support and expertise to the Autism Friendly Community initiative and on Saturday 2 November they held a charity Car Boot Sale at The Kibworth School. Despite the rainy weather, it was good to also see families affected by autism and young people with autism at the event - clear evidence of a community working together.

Support was also lent by Kibworth Books, which displayed and sold books about autism on a variety of aspects and welcomed the opportunity to engage in the local initiative. The shelf of books we assembled included ‘A Very Short Introduction to Autism’ and ‘101 Games and Activities for Children With Autism & Aspergers’, novels by Graeme Simsion, Mark Haddon and Jodi Picoult plus the autobiographies of Naoki Higashida and Chris Packham. The books were really well received and just having them in the shop sparked some good conversations and showed that we want to be an autism-friendly space.

Lynda Chapman
Issue 417
December 2019

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