Flag raised high for autism awareness

Published: Tuesday 30 March 2021

This photo shows ARCH co-ordinator Ramon Hutchingson with a service user and his mum during a flag raising ceremony to mark Autism Awareness Week 2021

A global awareness week for autism has been celebrated with a flag raising ceremony in South Lanarkshire.

And the Coordinator of a service which provides support for people with autism has described how the day has a special resonance locally.

Organisations from across the globe are currently marking World Autism Awareness Week.

The purpose is to recognise the diversity of autistic people and the infinite possibilities and variations within the autistic community. A flag, bearing the autistic pride rainbow symbol, was hoisted at South Lanarkshire Council HQ to mark local support.  

“Being autistic does not mean you have an illness or disease,” said Ramon Hutchingson, of South Lanarkshire Health and Social Care Partnership’s Autism Resources Coordination Hub (ARCH).

“It means your brain works in a different way from other people. We are committed to shifting attitudes towards acceptance and the realisation that autism is a difference rather than a disability.

“We’ve actually coined a new acronym for this awareness week TEAM - Teach Everyone Autism Matters.”

Since its inception in 2016, ARCH has been focussed on facilitating the development of autism services in South Lanarkshire communities - many of which are delivered by communities themselves - alongside partners in the statutory, private and third sectors. During lockdown, and in the absence of face-to-face meetings and contacts, various support networks, including regular parent carer support groups, have continued to be held digitally. 

Well-established community support on social media – instigated by ARCH – has also proved valuable to parents supporting autistic children during lockdown.

Ramon added: “We’ve always been driven by listening and being informed by genuine engagement. From that grassroots, bottom-up feedback we’ve helped consolidate natural links between people with shared experiences of autism, providing support when needed.

“I know from general feedback these networks and this community has not only been a lifeline for many, but it’s also blossomed in tough times. 

“World Autism Awareness Week for us, represents an opportunity to showcase that local strength and diversity”.

Val de Souza, Chief Officer of South Lanarkshire Health and Social Care Partnership, explained: “Our vision is working together to improve health and wellbeing in the community – with the community.

“Much of our work is about nurturing strength and building on community resource and support. That begins at grassroots level and the work of ARCH exemplifies that sentiment.”

Pictured in the photo above is Fraser Williamson, who attends the ASN base in St. Johns primary school and raised the flag to mark World Autism Awareness week. Also in the photo is his mum Magi Williamson and Ramon Hutchingson.

Lifeline in tough times

Local mum Carolanne, whose two sons, Marco and Leo, are autistic, explained how the support of ARCH has been vital, especially in lockdown. 

She said: “Being able to stay connected digitally during the pandemic has given our autism families an opportunity to share our frustrations, worries and achievements in a positive peer environment. 
“ARCH Hub has remained a vital source of information, support and encouragement for me as well as so many parents and individuals in our autism community.”

How do I access ARCH?

All you need to be is a South Lanarkshire resident who is affected by autism, either directly as a parent carer or sibling. You can access the ARCH service by simply phoning 0344 225 1111 or by email.