Autism Concern began in the early nineties, with a small group of parents of children with autism who met regularly to share their experiences and discuss the difficulties they experienced in trying to find suitable services for their children.
At this time, autism was not widely recognised or understood and so the parents decided that they would create a charity that provided services for children with autism – this is where Autism Concern (formerly known as the Northamptonshire Society for Autism (NSA)) began…
- The start: On 11th March 1992 the inaugural meeting of the Northamptonshire Society for Autism (now Autism Concern) was held, with Fred Lynden-Wyatt as the founding Chairman, Brian Dunne as Vice-Chairman and a trustee group made up of parents.
- Shaping the services: The charity started by asking parents what they wanted and needed and the following were set up: play schemes and training courses to help parents particularly in the challenging period after diagnosis and looking at ways to support those moving into adulthood.
- Fundraising: The charity approached the wider community to ask for support and to grow the services. A key for the charity was to ensure parents of children living with autism felt supported and less isolated.
- National Lottery: In 1996 the charity made a successful bid for funding and was awarded £103,000 over three years to set up a permanent office and develop new services for the community. Membership, services and support grew.
- Ambition: The charity’s ambitious ASSERT training, which ran for eight years, supported young people with autism, helping them enter the world of work.
- Play schemes: Play schemes for young people with autism continue to be run by the charity today, with staff trained to understand the complex needs of children and young people with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). When launched in the late 90s a handful of schemes ran during the school holidays. Today, Autism Concern runs over 100 play schemes and activity days all year round.
- Help and advice line: In the year 2000 a new help and advice line was launched, which still runs today. The hotline provides support, advice, training and information for parents, carers, professionals and children and adults with autism. This is a lifeline for our community.
- New name: In 2008 the charity was renamed and rebranded Autism Concern to reflect its growing profile and the charity’s thumbprint logo was born.
- Present day: Autism Concern offer services for children from five into their teenage years, which include activity days, short breaks, a school holiday programme called ‘Out and About’ and support for children with ADHD. We work in partnership with others to deliver targeted training for parents, we work in the community, run workshops in libraries, run drop-in sessions, support children in schools and are the voice of the autism community. We shape policy at the very highest level and work across all parts of Northamptonshire, with new youth groups now in Corby and soon to come to Towcester.
Brian Dunne, Honorary Vice President of Autism Concern and a founding trustee, said: “The mission of Autism Concern is and has always been to promote the care, treatment and education of children and adults with autism and to secure for them provision that meets their needs.
“I am proud to have been involved in such a wonderful charity, that provides invaluable and much needed services to those affected by autism.”