Autism Friendly Kibworth, communities helping each other
Autism Friendly Kibworth is part of a new initiative, community lead, supported by Leicestershire County Council, called Friendly Communities of Leicestershire. Friendly Communities of Leicestershire is an approach which aims to facilitate and support communities to be resilient and enable places where any individual can feel welcome, supported, and safe and integrated wherever they live in Leicestershire.
Autism Friendly Kibworth, sharing experiences in Kibworth
On 28th 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 aim is 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 café, The Well, which included some volunteers within the spectrum of autism; music by local artists, donated cakes by The Well and a positive atmosphere which contributed towards people feeling comfortable to share their experiences but also to consider ways to improve communication and peer support in Kibworth. Emma Dowman, manageress of The Well, who hosted the event 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 the intention to create a carers networking group that could meet twice a month in The Well initially. The purpose will be to exchange impressions, support each other and have some respite as carers. Another suggestion that emerged was the request for a Saturday play club for youngsters with Autism and severe learning difficulties, and their parents/ carers.
These sessions will be delivered by the interested residents and the Leicestershire Autistic Society, supported by each other, and managed on a rota basis, so the caring of their dependents during these sessions is also shared. People attending the community event on 28th September 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 shop windows multi-coloured, multi-shaped hands, symbolising then 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 in the shop windows. It is now being considered to roll this out to other businesses and to show it on a more permanent basis.
Autism Friendly Kibworth is supported by the local parish council; Dr Kevin Feltham, Chairman of the parish council and county councillor, created a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/386416345362064/ ) to raise awareness about autism and to support residents who want to get involved to make a Kibworth a Friendlier environment for everyone, Dr. Kevin Feltham said ''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 too. The Leicestershire Autistic Society (LAS) said "This is a brilliant concept, and we will do our best to help with the Autism Friendly Kibworth. The event on the 28th September, was a good opportunity for the local residents to be involved in bringing Autism awareness to the Kibworth community. Hopefully, this will be a successful concept that can roll out into other villages and towns in the County. On Saturday, 2nd November, Leicestershire Autistic Society held a Charity 'CarBoot' Sale at Kibworth School. We had Autism information for folks to take away and helped answer queries and concerns from local residents. Despite the rainy weather, it was good to also see families affected by Autism and young people with Autism at the CarBoot. The event was good evidence of a community working together with the support of the LCC's Communities Team and Adult and Communities
Support to the Autism Friendly Kibworth was also lent by the local bookstore, which displayed and sold books about autism on a variety of aspects and welcome the opportunity to engage in the local initiative.
Debbie James, the owner of the bookshop said, "It was a great exercise to do some research into which books about autism are available, both non-fiction and fiction. 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."