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Park picnic fun day for families with autism

Families across the North West were given the chance to enjoy all the joys of the funfair after a group of parents set up an autism-friendly picnic.

The third annual Picnic in the Park took place in Norris Green Park and was hosted by Autism in Motion Liverpool, a support organisation for adults, children and siblings affected by autism spectrum conditions.

Big and little kids alike were given the chance to unwind in a relaxed atmosphere, and were even given a chance to rock out alongside DJ Jake - the UK’s first Makaton-friendly DJ – all to make the event autism-friendly.

The challenges and issues relating to autism support across the board can lead to individuals and families feeling isolated, and this affects siblings in particular.

Lead organisers Jo Galbraith and Hannah Tickle are parents of children with autism, and they “know the struggle” of finding supportive spaces within the city region.

However, this is not exclusive to young children, and for adults like Michael Fogg — a Mathematics graduate with Asperger’s Syndrome — autism-friendly adjustments in all scenarios are essential for his day-to-day living.

Michael said: “Even though I have a degree and I can communicate, I still struggle going to the shops, going to work and meeting with my friends.

“I want to do all these things, but if it’s too noisy, smelly or bright, I get nervous and I cannot go out and do the things I need to do. It can be very frustrating, because I want to control it, stop my autism and enjoy things the way every other person does.

“But, I am who I am. I just happen to be autistic.”

“I want to control it, stop my autism and enjoy things the way every other person does but, I am who I am. I just happen to be autistic.” – Michael Fogg, 23.

Another visitor, 23-year-old Christopher Eaton, recalled a time when his differences were not as recognised or respected as they are now.

Christopher explained: “My mum stopped taking my brother and me to the park because other kids would see me acting funny. They would pick on the both of us. It wasn’t very fair on him, to be honest.”

Despite these memories, Christopher is glad that events such as Picnic in the Park are becoming more readily available to people across Liverpool.

Chris said: “It makes me feel really happy that children can all enjoy things like this together and feel welcome. I would have loved to have had this when I was younger, but these events still help me.

“I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

What is autism?

Autism is a spectrum of neuro-behavioural conditions impacting social interaction, language development and social skills.

Campaign work from a number of national and local organisations has vastly improved the situation for individuals living with autism in the North West.

According to national statistics, as many as 700,000 people across the UK have a diagnosis of an autism spectrum condition.

By April Ryan

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