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Autistic and OK
Youth participation
Friday 24 February 2023

New partnership launched to create national schools' mental health programme

Ambitious about Autism has launched a new partnership with Zurich UK and the Z Zurich Foundation to help develop a programme to change thousands of young lives.  

A grant from the Z Zurich Foundation will help Ambitious about Autism develop a national programme to support the mental wellbeing of autistic pupils in mainstream secondary schools. The programme aims to reach thousands of autistic young people in the UK and will also provide support and guidance to thousands of parents and caregivers to help them proactively care for their mental wellbeing.  

The new programme, ‘Autistic and OK’, will pioneer ground-breaking autism acceptance toolkits for secondary schools to provide resources for autistic pupils, non-autistic peers and teachers. The toolkit will empower autistic young people with the knowledge and self-awareness to proactively look after their own mental wellbeing before reaching crisis point. 

The grant will enable the charity to provide toolkits for up to 600 secondary schools, with the eventual aim of providing toolkits to all schools in the UK.   

Ambitious about Autism will also train at least half (2,250) of UK-based Zurich staff in understanding autism, with the aim of training 100% of Zurich UK staff (4,500) by August 2025.  

Jolanta Lasota, Chief Executive of Ambitious about Autism, said:

We are hugely excited to be working with Zurich and the Z Zurich Foundation. Our programme is built on the premise that to support mental wellbeing in autistic young people we need to change the environment, not the individual. By embedding our programme in schools and working with families and the wider school community, we will build an ecosystem of support to ensure autistic young people will be understood, respected, and able to thrive into adulthood. 

 

Gary Shaughnessy, Chair of the Z Zurich Foundation said:

Every young person deserves the best possible chance of living a healthy life at full potential. Unfortunately, all too often the needs of autistic young people can go unmet. We know that the right support early in an autistic young person’s life can make all the difference to their quality of life as a whole, in the short and longer run. This funding will help the AaA bridge critical gaps embedding the programme in UK schools and empowering autistic young people to take control of their own mental wellbeing through early intervention and prevention. Moreover, it aims to reduce stigma about autism involving teachers, carers and all peers in the school environment.

 

Johnny Timpson OBE, Supervisory Board Member of the Group for Autism, Insurance, Investment and Neurodiversity (GAIN) said:

On behalf of GAIN I welcome and applaud Zurich’s and Z Zurich Foundation’s long-term commitment to improving autism acceptance and inclusion. Alongside working with GAIN to make a lasting change to the workforce of today, this project will enable future generations to open new doors as they grow, develop, and explore the world of work. Whilst one in seven in the UK are neurodivergent, lack of neurodiversity awareness, support and reasonable adjustment in schools and the workplace is a barrier to many realising their full potential. This will enable them to bring their whole selves to the classroom, job and career.


 
Rt Hon Sir Robert Buckland, MP for Swindon South, said:

I am delighted to hear this news, following my recent work on autism with Zurich and the insurance industry. I am looking forward to seeing the results of this welcome initiative.
 

To find out more about the Autistic and OK programme please contact us at AutisticandOK@ambitiousaboutautism.org.uk

 

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