The National Autistic Society is encouraging autistic people across the UK, and their families, to talk to their local general election candidates about autism, by holding candidate coffee mornings. The charity has produced a range of resources to help set up the meeting and decide on what topics to focus on.
This is part of the charity’s I’m One campaign, which aims to help candidates of all parties to understand the challenges autistic people in their area face and to make sure autism is a priority in the next Parliament. The National Autistic Society has free resources on its website to help autistic people to set up the meetings and decide what topics they want to cover – and staff are there for support too.
More than 1 in 100 people are on the autism spectrum. Being autistic means someone sees, hears and feels the world in a different, often more intense, way to other people. But as it’s a spectrum condition, autism affects everyone differently which means each person will have different support needs.
During the 2015 election, hundreds of campaigners talked to the candidates running for office in their local area. Many of the candidates they spoke went on to become MPs who helped achieve things like:
- guaranteeing autism training for every new teacher
- securing Government support for recording autism diagnosis waiting times
- getting autism specifically included in the NHS health mandate
Mark Lever, Chief Executive of the National Autistic Society, said: “Politicians have the power to improve things for autistic people and their families. With the General Election just weeks away, now’s our chance to tell a whole new set of MPs about autism and make sure it’s a priority in the next Parliament.
“The best way to learn about autism is to hear from autistic people and their families directly. This is why we’re asking autistic people, their families and friends to invite their local candidate to meet them for 20 minutes or so and tell them about their autism. We’re on hand to help set up these meetings and have lots of information and resources on our website to help too.
“We believe this will help candidates to understand what life can be like for autistic people and if they’re elected, encourage them to help make the world a more autism-friendly place.”
Arran Linton Smith, 61, is autistic and got involved in I’m One during the 2015 general election, when he met three candidates for the Broxtowe constituency in Nottinghamshire.
He said: “I got involved in the National Autistic Society’s 2015 election campaign in an effort to make sure candidates had an understanding of the main issues I and other autistic people face.
“It was a much better experience than I was expecting. I managed to arrange three meetings and was impressed that one of the candidates came a long way to meet me and gave me 30 minutes of his busy campaign time. The meetings were all very different but I feel that I managed to make a real impression, especially in relation to autism in the workplace.
“I’d encourage everyone to get involved in the election campaign and to make sure politicians understand our concerns, so they can represent us in Parliament.”
Find out more about the National Autistic Society’s I’m One campaign and how to get involved: http://www.autism.org.uk/imone