There are currently 29 Autism Leads in Local Authorities across Wales which forms a network of shared practice and engagement. Throughout Covid-19, the network has continued to support and engage with their local autistic communities. Some examples of their innovative practice:
- Continued one-to-one ‘virtual’ support of vulnerable adults, or those with very high needs in Blaenau Gwent.
- A virtual VE Day party to keep the community connected in Wrexham.
- Storybooks explaining Covid-19 to young children, including autistic children provided in Flintshire.
- A “card” developed to provide autistic people with improved communication mechanisms with emergency services during lockdown in Denbighshire.
- A virtual “forum” for young autistic adults developing skills for life in Cardiff & Vale.
- A thorough “lessons learned” evaluation throughout the lockdown period, resulting in a re-designing and re-shaping of some services in Torfaen.
- Ten “hubs” opened during lockdown to support families in Pembrokeshire.
- Engagement with autistic adults and those with a learning disability through the lockdown period in Gwynedd.
The National Autism Team (NAT) have continued to facilitate the quarterly National Autism Leads network meetings virtually, and introduced regional “Hwb” meetings, to encourage strong engagement across the specialism and to provide an opportunity to share good practice on a national, regional and local level. The attendance levels have been record-breaking via this new format, as more Leads are able to attend with the absence of travel time.
The Leads continue to play an essential role in disseminating information from the NAT locally, and informing national policy and guidance through local networks and engagement in a grass-roots approach. The network continues to ‘sign-post’ the people they support and professional colleagues to the NAT Covid-19 Information webpage, and Facebook and Twitter pages.