AN organisation which employs autistic people to help public sector workers understand the condition could win a top award.
Autism Oxford has been nominated in the outstanding adult services category of the Autism Professionals Awards.
It was set up by Kathy Erangey in 2007 to combat difficulties encountered by her autistic son Stephen, now 22.
Since then it has trained more than 3,000 staff in the NHS, social care and the criminal justice system, including magistrates.
Its 12 trainers have a paid role to provide training to workers to help them understand the complex condition.
People with autistic spectrum disorders can have problems with social interaction and unusual patterns of behaviour.
Under the 2009 Autism Act, the NHS and councils must provide autism awareness training for all staff and specialist training for key workers.
AUTISM is a developmental disability affecting how the person communicates and relates to others
It affects how the individual views the world around them – it can often appear chaotic
Estimates suggest one in 100 people in the UK have the condition and there are four times as many boys than girls who have autism
Asperger syndrome, a milder form of autism, has symptons which affect the person’s behaviour and ability to interact in social situations
For information, visit the National Autistic Society site – autism.org.uk
Mrs Erangey, from Chinnor, said: “Rather than having someone who is not autistic talk about what it looks like from the outside, we have real autistic people who talk about what it’s like.
“It helps them understand what might be going on and gives them a real insight into the reality of the condition rather than being judgmental from the outside.”
Her son’s battle with high functioning autism inspired her to set up the group.
She said: “I struggled to find useful information. I found that the most useful information I got was from listening to adults on the spectrum. For example, a sufferer who has a panic attack could be detained by police and lash out if they are under the impression they are being attacked.”
Heightened senses are common traits among sufferers, she said. “For example, someone could walk up Cornmarket Street in Oxford when it is crowded and hear every single conversation.
“All that can have such an effect on him that he is overwhelmed.”
She said of the nomination: “I am thrilled and honoured.
“The autistic people in the team are finding it hard to believe.
“They have never had recognition for their skills. This is the first opportunity in life really to be listened to and be recognised for what they can do.”
Paul Isaacs, 27, who is autistic and who trains people, said: “It has helped me gain confidence and self-esteem in recognising my abilities.”
The group has provided support to Botley’s Peter Bowell, 69, whose son, who he did not want to name, has Asperger syndrome.
Mr Bowell said: “We had dark moments in the last four years and the only light to shine on us has been from Autism Oxford.”
The group will find out if it has won in Harrogate on March 4.