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an often confusing world: their passion; their creativity; their expression; their impact. Certainly some of the world’s experts and geniuses were or are autistic and as more celebrities share their personal stories, the aspirations and ambitions of more autistic people are raised.
Celebrity Dan Ackroyd ‘Ghostbusters’
Actor shares his experience with Autism dan­aykroyd­and­aspergers/
Giles’ story is sadly a common one. He was overwhelmed and confused as a child, often displaying self­injurious behaviour. Unable to communicate, his frustration, anger and upset came through in distressed behaviours: head banging, shouting, screaming, hitting out at those around him. His needs dominated his family’s life.
The lack of educational facilities meant that Giles stayed at home as a teenager until his mother couldn’t cope any longer. Steve had a breakdown and Giles was admitted to Borocourt Hospital. It took Steve 12 months to get back on her feet and 11 years passed for Giles in hospital. Although ‘safe’, Giles gradually lost his basic human rights and was in a locked ward until he was moved out and he became the first resident of a house in Kingwood Common, and so Kingwood was born. Sadly Giles died aged 35 following an epileptic seizure. One of his paintings now resides in the entrance to Autism at Kingwood’s reception.
Autism at Kingwood now supports over 140 autistic adults, across the spectrum. A number of the people supported have complex needs, a learning disability and require 24/7 support to live as independently as possible. Others benefit from just a few hours each week to help with different situations such as health appointments, shopping or accessing a leisure activity. Autism at Kingwood has an excellent reputation for supporting autistic adults with complex needs who may
otherwise be facing hospital admission. Sadly we are often the last resort as support provision is often reactive rather than proactive. A number of people we support to live happy lives, wouldn’t be able to do so without our specialist help. The risk is always that funding is cut because someone is ‘doing so well’ without the recognition that they are ‘doing so well’ because of the support they are receiving. Remove or reduce the support and the impact can be large, the consequences detrimental.
In addition to traditional support Kingwood provides a number of other services. We have a Transition Service in Reading for young autistic adults; we run two social clubs for people we support and others with autism and learning disabilities; we co­ordinate horticultural at two sites in Oxfordshire. Last year Oxfordshire County Council commissioned a new service: Oxfordshire Adult Autism Diagnostic Services (OAADS) for people who don’t have a learning disability or mental health condition, which Autism at Kingwood deliver. Over the year we have supported at least a further 80 people, providing, information and resources about autism, access to diagnosis alongside learning and development workshops.
Autism at Kingwood is now providing support and services across four counties in the Thames Valley: Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Hampshire and employs over 300 staff. With a turnover rate less than half of the adult social care sector average, we are recognised as being a good employer in addition to being a good provider. We have a positive workforce culture that is commented on time and time again by our employees.
It took Steve many years to get Autism at Kingwood to be managerially and financially independent and sustainable. It was no small feat. The Charity has remained focused on its beneficiaries and purpose: to provide support to autistic people. It doesn’t have expansive growth targets, it doesn’t want to become the only autism support provider in the county, the World or the Universe! However, it has grown over the years as we meet more autistic people, and their families, who can benefit from our services. It is certainly tough times for any organisation (charity or otherwise) providing services in Adult Social Care.
Austerity cuts by central Government have meant that local authority budgets have been under pressure. We have had to make some difficult decisions, including not being bullied to reduce the quality of our support through lowering our costs. But being a charity doesn’t mean we can be any less efficient. Although we are sometimes fortunate enough to receive donations, I am very gratified that Kingwood operates without being dependent on donations. That means when any fundraising we do, and donation given, no matter the size, will go on to benefit the people we support – not contribute to the basic running costs of the business. This is an outstanding achievement, one that many charities aspire to. The Charity has been fortunate enough to have the Chairmanship of Lady Sonia Hornby for 20 of the last 25 years, providing governance and oversight in all that we do and we have achieved a lot in that time.
   Dame Stephanie Shirley (left) pictured with Kate Allen, Chief Executive Autism at Kingwood
I am very proud to be one of the Chief Executive’s in the lifetime of Autism at Kingwood, although only contributing 4 of the 25 years so far!
written by
Kate Allen, Chief Executive Autism at Kingwood
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