From education to employment

Why every day is Independence Day for those with a diagnosis of autism

Independence means something different for many sections of society. Last week we saw the US celebrate Independence Day with parades and picnics to mark the day in 1776 when America declared that the 13 colonies of the US were independent from the British Monarchy.

But for some, such as those who are on the autistic spectrum, independence can be something as simple as ordering your own food at a take-away restaurant or making a piece of toast.

In fact, for adults who have autistic spectrum disorders (ASD), living an independent life and contributing to society by taking on a job can seem even more unattainable. A survey carried out by the National Autistic Society found that only 16% of adults with ASD were working full time, despite 77% wanting work.

Figures like this are why Orbis Education and Care, Cardiff based and leading UK provider of services for adults and children with complex needs associated with autism, has taken on the mantle of Independence Day and renamed it Active Support Day.

Orbis is encouraging its children and adults around its 17 schools, residential homes and day services around the UK to say a big ‘thank you’ to services both local and national, for either consciously or inadvertently supporting them to live a more independent lifestyle, offering them work or helping them cope with everyday situations.

Here Jock Andrew, Area Manager for Adult Services at Orbis, explains how Active Support is helping those with autism across the UK achieve their goals for life and why, for them, every day is Independence Day.

“I have worked in supporting people with autism, learning disabilities and so-called ‘challenging behaviour’ for a period of thirty two years. This has ranged from providing direct support to people, managing homes, designing and commissioning support, homes and services. The purpose has always been to increase the quality of life for people who need additional support to realise their full potential.

Active Support is a vital and integral component of our care model as rather than doing things for individuals, it helps them to learn skills for themselves and therefore take control of their day to day lives. This gives individuals confidence, a sense of pride and the dignity and respect that we all come to expect.

The clear benefits of this model include increased positive social interaction, levels of engagement and communication, as well as skills acquisition which results in increased opportunities, empowerment and ultimately independence. The children and adults we support play an active role in their communities.

In addition to this, and by virtue of all of the above, we see significant increases in quality of life for the people we support. This in turn is commented upon positively by family and significant others as well as our inspectors.

Furthermore, we see evidence of greater degrees of staff satisfaction in the highly responsible roles that they have, further motivating them to continue to aspire for the people we support in order that we work to maximise opportunities for all individuals.

It is therefore with great pride, anticipation and excitement that the inaugural Orbis Active Support Day, appropriately scheduled for July 4th 2019, has been launched.

Each of our services will celebrate independence and empowerment by recognising what we do every day in supporting our children and adults.

The aim of the Orbis Active Support campaign is not only to continue to encourage children and adults with additional needs to achieve the benefits mentioned above, but also to help to increase awareness of Active Support within the wider community. The hope is that local businesses and services, as well as the general public will recognise that by using a model such as Active Support the worlds of home, work and leisure become more accessible.

As more organisations come to embrace the concept of Orbis Active Support Day, the more the annual celebration on July 4th is set to grow, and in time this will result in wider acceptance of individuals with additional needs.

Social Stories are proven to be an excellent tool for helping children on the spectrum deal with new or unfamiliar social events. Developed by Carol Gray in 1991, they have greatly improved social skills in children with autism.

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