Thursday 2nd April 2015

World Autism Awareness Day – #BiggerandBetterinLeeds

To celebrate the day, a group of local services came together to organise the event “Bigger and Better in Leeds”, which was held in the Leeds City Museum Brodrick Hall auditorium on Friday April 2nd between 11am and 3:30pm.

The aim of the free event was to promote awareness of autism spectrum conditions in a positive light. Autism conditions affect how a person perceives and interacts with the world and is thought to affect around one in every 100 people.

You cannot tell if someone has autism just by looking at them and it is a lifelong condition. Although autism is classed as a disability, the event aimed to focus on the positive contributions that people with autism make to the city of Leeds.

On the day, there were stalls to inform and educate people about the condition, as well as providing information about support available in the city and how people could access it.

There were performers and speakers taking to the stage throughout the day to entertain and inform attendees. Highlights include:

Q&A Session with Kay Mellor OBE

Leeds-born Kay Mellor OBE is an actress, writer and director best known for her television dramas which include Band of Gold, Playing the Field, Fat Friends and The Syndicate. In the latest series of The Syndicate, due on-air later that year, Lenny Henry plays a man with Asperger’s Syndrome (a form of autism) who forms a lottery syndicate.

He is convinced he has developed a mathematical formula which enables him to predict the winning numbers.
We are delighted that Kay attended on the day of the event to conduct a question and answer session.

Here’s a video of Kay speaking about her hopes that the character would help to increase awareness of autism, particularly in adults.

Councillor Adam Ogilvie

Councillor Ogilvie was appointed as the Executive Board Member for Adult Social Care in Leeds in May 2013 and opened the event. He said: “The thing that interests me about Adult Social Care is that it’s all about people. I’m a people person; I love meeting people and finding out what makes them tick and how we can help improve their lives, for a better life.”

Georgette Hilton

Georgette is a Leeds based singer-songwriter with Asperger’s Syndrome. She has a strong musical background as the granddaughter of 50’s crooner Ronnie Hilton, a family legacy she has continued by becoming a great artist in her own right.

Michael Duffy

As a 19-year-old with autism, Michael suffered acute anxiety and problems with confidence and self-esteem, finding it difficult to even leave his house. However, with some support and a lot of determination, Michael has changed his life almost beyond recognition.

Now aged 22, Michael has travelled the country to speak to others in similar situations, winning awards and meeting royalty in the process. He has also helped others through taking part in several voluntary work placements. More recently, he worked with Kay Mellor OBE and Lenny Henry in an advisory role for the latest series of The Syndicate. Michael hopes to inspire confidence in others by telling his story so far.

Specialist Autism Services Drama + Theatre Craft Group Presents “The Y Factor”

Debbie Austin

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There was a range of stalls at the event, which included:

  • Leeds Autism AIM – Leeds Autism Hub – a new information and peer support service for adults with autism
  • Leeds & District ABC Support Group – a regional resource for parents of children with an autistic spectrum condition
  • Through the Maze – an information service, run by Connect In The North, for people with a learning disability, their families, carers and professionals
  • The Citizens Advice Bureau – offering help on legal, financial and other problems by providing advice and influencing policy-makers
  • Specialist Autism Services – held a sensory integration experience stall
  • The National Autistic Society – a nationwide charity who campaign for a better world for autistic people
  • Leeds Autism Services – held a stall providing information about how autism affects language and communication, highlighting new technologies which are now available to help

In addition, a range of audio/visual displays and artworks were shown on the day, which sought to show the positive aspects of living with autism.

Event Organisers

Leeds Autism Services Specialist Autism Services  Leeds Autism AIM