A voluntary organisation providing support in the north east for parents of children and young people with autism has been given a major boost.
ASK North East (Autism Specific Knowledge) has been operating for four years without a base.
But it has newly achieved charitable status and trustees have moved into permanent accommodation in Banchory Business Centre, which is supporting the charity.
The resource facility gives information, advocacy and practical support to parents of children and young people with autism, their families and carers across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.
ASK has six trustees, all involved in autism, and is now looking to recruit volunteers.
Eddie Fowler, the group’s chairman and an autism specialist, said now that it is a registered charity, the focus will be on funding for its extensive work.
He explained: “We have being trying to fill a lot of gaps with no funding at all and have been operating on a voluntary basis.
“However, now we are a charity, we will be applying for grant funding.
“It’s also fantastic that we now have a base with the facilities that go with it.”
Eddie and another trustee, Annette Masson who has two children with autism, have been helping people with the condition for more than 12 years.
He was awarded a post graduate certificate in autism and learning from the University of Aberdeen in 2012. Shortly afterwards, Scottish Autism appointed him service manager for the One Stop Shop for Autism in Fife.
Eddie said: “This was a new venture, part of the Scottish Government’s autism strategy in which it was decided that six One Stop Shops would be opened throughout Scotland.
“Fife was the first and it is now well established.
“Every city has an Autism One Stop Shop apart from Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.
“I don’t understand how that has happened because it is so badly needed.
“I didn’t want to call us a One Stop Shop, rather a resource centre, because people would associate us as being funded by the Government – we’re not.”
The scale of autism in Scotland’s schools is rising and is predicted to continue increasing.
Eddie explained: “At the moment, schools are being overwhelmed with the number of autistic children.
“They say it’s one in 100, which is quite a lot of children, but by 2024 it is predicted to be one in 25.
“What we are trying to do is spend money on the right things. It’s not a case of throwing money at it. It’s doing the right things – the transitions, strategies and support in schools.”
Employment is also a key area.
He added: “We are looking to transition young people straight into employment, instead of them leaving school or college and being unemployed for years which makes it much harder to gain full time employment. There are a lot of issues.”
Eddie said they try to cater for all age groups – from two-year-olds to adults.
He added: “A lot of adults were never diagnosed at a young age but throughout their lives have had to face substantial issues relating to their autism condition.
“Autism is a lifelong condition – some people can manage their condition better than others.
“If people are signposted to the wrong system or supports then it can be quite traumatic for them.
“There are also costs if people are being treated and it’s not really working.
“That’s where we work with the NHS and mental health teams.
“If they have someone with autism, they can refer them to us. It’s much easier to send them to us and we can counsel them.”
If you would like to know more about ASK North East, call 01330 826500.