A new autism community hub wants to fill a gap in support and help autistic adults break down the barriers facing them.
The Autism Directory opened its new hub in Caerphilly town centre in September and wants to provide a “safe space for the autism community.”
As well as support groups and advice sessions for autistic people and their families, the hub offers support with job applications, social skills and more.
What is autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a life-long condition which can affect people in different ways.
The brain of an autistic person works differently to that of a neurotypical person (someone without autism), which can lead to people with autism experiencing difficulties socialising and communicating with other people.
Autistic people can often have intense and highly-focused interests and hobbies.
There are around 700,000 people in the UK who have autism.
Autism is not an illness or a disease.
Research carried out by the National Autistic Society found that only 16% of autistic adults in the UK are in full-time employment, while only 20% have a CV.
They also found 90% of autistic people reported having anxiety and depression and are also dealing with social isolation.
Gareth Tarrant, charity operations manager at the Autism Directory, said a lack of services for autistic adults and their families in the area played a part in the decision to open the hub in Caerphilly.
He said: “There are still a number of barriers in society for the autism community that the hub will seek to address, in particular the low rates of autistic adults in full time employment.
“Anxiety, depression and social isolation are particularly high within the autism population, and the Covid-19 pandemic has increased this further.
“Our hub aims to address this and the lack of appropriate support by providing a safe space for the autism community to access the help they need.”
Where is the hub and when is it open?
The Autism Directory community hub is located on 4A Market Street, Caerphilly.
It is open Monday to Friday from 10am to 3pm.
For more information about support sessions, call the hub on 02920 108921 or send an email to email@example.com
The charity also offers employment opportunities within its ranks for autistic people, with 17 of the 34 people employed by the charity across south Wales having autism.
Autistic staff members have a variety of roles, including running support groups and answering the phones.
Merchandise such as t-shirts, mugs, coasters and more, designed by autistic artists, are on sale at the hub, with the money raised going back into the charity, which relies on donations to survive.
The charity also looks to work with local businesses to create more opportunities for autistic people to find employment or work experience.
History of the Autism Directory
The Autism Directory was set up in 2010 by Nadine Honeybone, after she struggled to find information and support for her autistic son.
Since then, the charity has grown and expanded across south Wales, opening a number of community hubs from which autistic adults and their families can receive support and advice and socialise with other autistic people and their families.
The charity is based in Treforest.
The hub was opened thanks to support from Caerphilly Comic Con, which was held at St Cenydd Leisure Centre in 2019, as well as from money raised by Caerphilly town mayor Mike Prew in 2018/19, where he chose the Autism Directory as one of his two chosen charities.
Caerphilly town mayor, Cllr Prew, whose son has Asperger Syndrome, said: “The services offered by the Autism Directory are fantastic, especially in helping people understand autism.
“The charity has been a massive help for a lot of people. It’s fantastic for the people of Caerphilly.”
Caerphilly Senedd Member Hefin David thanked the charity for opening the hub on Market Street and said: “My daughter is autistic, having been diagnosed two years ago, and so this charity is very close to my heart.
“It was wonderful to see the Caerphilly Comic Con choose the Autism Directory as their charity last year – this supported the opening of the hub in town.”
But while the coronavirus pandemic has limited the services it has been able to provide so far, the charity is looking forwards.
Mr Tarrant told Caerphilly Observer the charity is expecting around ten to 15 visitors each day after the pandemic has passed, with the hub providing more face-to-face activities while continuing to provide services online.
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