Our work to support autistic children and young people in 2020
It can’t be overstated how incredibly difficult 2020 has been for all of us, but particularly for autistic children and young people and their families.
Throughout this year, Ambitious about Autism has been working hard to support these vulnerable families and make the ordinary possible for them. As the year draws to a close, we want to share some of our proudest achievements.
Right from the Start toolkit
In January, we launched our Right from the Start Toolkit, developed with experts to support parents and carers through their child’s autism journey in the earliest years. The free resource has been downloaded nearly 6,000 times. To mark its launch we also published new research from our survey of parents and carers which found that nearly half (46%) had waited longer than 18 months for a formal diagnosis.
A refreshed website
In April, we unveiled our refreshed website, featuring a new look and new content for parents, carers, and autistic young people. Our website is simpler to navigate and has lots of accessibility features. We’ve had lots of positive feedback.
Our Coronavirus response
As the pandemic took hold in March, our incredible schools and college teams worked tirelessly to ensure we could continue providing support to our most vulnerable pupils and learners and those with key worker parents during the first lockdown. They also introduced a blended learning approach to offer young people both online and ‘on-site’ education during this challenging time.
Our family support team launched a new welfare support service to extend our help to the vulnerable families we serve, offering tailored information and resources, advocacy, welfare calls and more.
Working with autistic young people and experts across our services we also developed a new Coronavirus section on our website, packed with articles, advice and resources to support families in areas such as health and wellbeing, legal rights, and education. We also created top tips for managing health anxiety, time at home, and visual guides to visiting the hospital, having a Coronavirus test, telling medical professionals about health needs, and more.
The World Has Turned Upside Down
In May we worked with renowned children’s author Kes Gray and illustrator Chloe Batchelor to create a new illustrated story helping autistic children make sense of the tumultuous changes that happened as a result of lockdown. A wonderful audio version of the story was narrated by our Ambassador Jon Snow. The story was viewed more than 20,000 times. The project recently won a prestigious marketing industry award.
Ambitious College’s Natspec Award
In July, Ambitious College won a prestigious Natspec award for its innovative project implementing universal occupational therapy provision across the college, including a TV channel, bespoke curriculum and weekly yoga sessions. The judges said: “This was a really innovative idea which had an impact across the whole college. We welcomed the strong evidence from students and others, particularly about the impact of the approach.”
TreeHouse School’s online art exhibition
Despite the disruption of Coronavirus, TreeHouse School was able to showcase the amazing artwork of pupils by moving its annual art show online this year. The virtual extravaganza included pieces inspired by world renowned artists such as Eduardo Paolozzi, art movements like surrealism and populist art, such as the London Underground map.
New school announcement
In July we announced that the Ambitious about Autism Schools Trust had been chosen to open a new special free school for autistic children and young people in Kingston.
The school, which will support up to 90 pupils with autism aged four to 19, will build on our innovative approach to autism education, the Ambitious Approach, which places a focus on the wellbeing and quality of life of each pupil.
The Rise School
Despite a challenging year, several pupils at The Rise School have excelled. For the first time, two pupils achieved IGCSE English Literature, one pupil achieved GCSE History, one pupil achieved GCSE Geography via The Rise School’s partnership with Springwest Academy and one pupil achieved an incredible seven GCSEs, all at grade 5 or above.
Another highlight for the school community was watching a Year 10 pupil provide evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group on SEND during an inquiry into the impact of COVID-19 on education.
Responding to the global Black Lives Matter protests following the tragic death of George Floyd, we launched new inclusion resources to help autistic young people and their families have conversations about race and racism and learn more. This included visual stories and easy read guides.
Know Your Normal webinars
Over 650 professionals took part in our Know Your Normal webinars this year, improving their understanding of the unique challenges faced by autistic people, particularly around mental health, as a result of the pandemic.
Young autistic people played a key role in the webinars, sharing their own experiences to build understanding and help healthcare professionals adapt their care using an ‘autism lens’ to provide appropriate support.
Our Youth Patrons explain autism
Autistic young people are at the heart of all our work and in August our Youth Patrons starred in a series of new videos explaining what it is like to be autistic. The videos covered topics such as stimming, meltdowns and shutdowns and in them the young people explained in their own words how others can support them.
The Employ Autism Higher Education Network
In partnership with Santander Universities, we launched our Employ Autism Higher Education Network enabling autistic students studying at 17 universities across the UK to access paid internships and tailored careers support and advice.
We’re very proud of all that we have achieved in this challenging year for children and young people with autism. Thank you to all our staff and supporters who have made this possible.