SINCE I became an MP in 1997, I’ve become much more aware of just how autism affects people and families in this borough. I often meet parents at my surgeries who have children with autism. It can sometimes be difficult to get the right level of care and help at school and after school. That is where charities and organisations can offer support.
All too often, I see parents ‘battling against the system.’ For them I recommend the help of the Family Fund, (www.familyfund.org.uk), a charitable trust to help families with severely disabled children. Autism and related Asperger Syndrome may also be part of their problems. Two years ago, I was pleased that one local beneficiary of Lottery funding was bibic (www.bibic.org.uk/) which helps families of children who have genetic conditions including cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome and autism.
In 2009 I backed a colleague’s Private Member’s Bill to strengthenthe rights of children and adults with autism. The result was the Autism Act 2009. There is also the Education and Training (Young People with Autism) Bill 2010-12 currently under preparation, which will deal with the education and training of young people with autism and Asperger Syndrome.
It is important to ensure that work opportunities are provided for those young people, especially in the current climate, as it can be difficult for people with autism to find jobs. There are some good employers ready to take on people within the wide spectrum of autism. I understand that the John Lewis Partnership has a good scheme, and some supermarkets are also willing to employ people with autism. Anyone who wants to learn more about autism can go to http://www.autism.org.uk/ and http://www.autismuk.com/. There is also a local organisation: http://www.autismwestmidlands.org.uk/