James, Vicky and Jenny coproduce and deliver Community Autism Awareness Workshops
13 Aug 2021
James, who lives at our Supported Living services in Dudley, has joined forces with manager Vicky and support worker Jenny to coproduce an Autism Awareness workshop. The first workshop, which was designed to improve the experience of autistic people by raising awareness in the local community was delivered to the Learning Disability team at Russells Hall hospital this week.
Raising community awareness
James feels passionately that access to services could be improved for autistic people just by fostering a better understanding – from healthcare right through to leisure centres. The recent session at Russells Hall was described by staff as being “incredibly informative” and said that “listening to James talk about his experiences and autism was invaluable”. So much so that the team has been invited back to help with continuous improvement and further training for different departments.
James explains: “I think it is really important that people learn more about autism. I was quite anxious about delivering the workshop, as it was new experience for me, but I learned a lot about myself and my ability to share my knowledge. I am so, so glad I did it. If I can help other people and give them a better life, then it has been worthwhile.”
James, Vicky and Jenny worked closely together to coproduce the content of the workshop, which covers a general introduction to what autism is, including communication, routines and sensory needs. The workshop also talks through what reasonable adjustments might look like in a hospital setting, helping workshop attendees to put the theory into practice and create more autism-friendly environments and processes. As part of the workshop, James shares his own experiences of the struggles he has faced over his lifetime, as well as spelling out that not everyone who is autistic has the same needs.
The importance of coproduction and lived experience
As a Registered Learning Disability Nurse with more than ten years of experience working with autistic people, a Masters degree in Autism, and an accredited trainer for the National Autistic Society, this is a subject close to Vicky’s heart and one that she’s delivered training on before.
“I think it is really very important the people have a better understanding of autism and reduce barriers that autistic people may face. Having someone with lived experience really brings home what we’re trying to say – which is exactly why coproduction is so important. We’re incredibly proud of James for all the work he has done and for opening up about his experiences.” Vicky explains.
Rolling out the training to community groups
James, Vicky and Jenny have contacted other organisations in the area to offer the training free of charge. They have so far had interest from the ambulance service and local leisure centres and are in discussion with a number of others.
Vicky continues, “Supporting people when they are at home is one thing, but our role extends beyond that. By sharing our knowledge, we hope to raise awareness, reduce barriers and make the world a better place for autistic people.”