It’s all about perception for autism group

Appaws for Autism UK board Neil Chisolm, Carol Chisolm, Isabel Hogg, Joanne Rankin, Stuart Hogg & Steph Hogg. Picture by George McLuskie.
Appaws for Autism UK board Neil Chisolm, Carol Chisolm, Isabel Hogg, Joanne Rankin, Stuart Hogg & Steph Hogg. Picture by George McLuskie.

A new group aimed at changing people’s perceptions of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) for children and adults is to run a bi-monthly fun day in Leven.

Appaws for Austism UK was only set up in October, but the group has gathered remarkable support since then, and is already working towards becoming a company limited by guarantee and gaining charitable status.

Keen to offer a place for parents with ASD children to go to, the group is meeting every second Saturday at Scoonie Bowling Club, with plans for a weekly summer club too.

Carole Chisolm set up the group to help other parents after bad experiences of her own with her son who is now 22.

“My son has autism and he was failed really badly by the education system. In the end, I had to home school him because of the bullying and the cruelty he endured,” she said.

“For Appaws, tackling our education system is the biggest difference we aim to make, because right now they aren’t getting it right. Our children are being failed.

“Of the 250 members we have on the Facebook group, they all have issues with school. Right now, parents feel lost and they need to be empowered.”

The group is also putting together a programme which can be adopted by several outlets, such as doctors surgeries, dentists, the police, and large retailers, on how best to accommodate an ASD child.

“If people are educated, then acceptance will come,” said Carol. “And any stores which meet our best practice guidelines will receive an Appaws for Austism Approved certificate - our triple A.”

As well as tackling the education system to ensure that no ASD child faces social exclusion, the group is hoping to set up premises for the training of assistance and therapy dogs. Training an assistance dog can take up to two years at a cost of £5000, so the group wants to fundraise to help families across the country.

Carol added: “I am so passionate about this. We aren’t like other groups as I am available to parents 24/7, and I will fight for this. Our motto is ‘Be Your Own Kind of Wonderful’ and that’s what I want - for every children to be who they are.”

The next fun day will take place at the bowling club on March 14 from 1.00-3.00 p.m. For more, search ‘Appaws for Austism UK’ on Facebook.

A place where you don’t feel alone

The Appaws for Austism UK group is already helping hundreds of parents, and some as far away as the US and Canada.

Anne Marie Bishop from Kennoway has a seven-year-old son Jay who was diagnosed last year. She was first introduced to the group after they held an autism friendly event at Toys R’ Us in Kirkcaldy.

“I just want Jay to feel comfortable. I’m going to need support for when he gets older, as Jay has ADHD as well, so I’m going to need help when he goes to high school.

“Before, I blamed myself for things... so getting the diagnosis and having people to share things with, and those people going through the same things as you, is a big help.”

Stuart and Steph Hogg are sitting on the Appaws board, and they are parents to Bruce.

“We got a diagnosis three years ago, and still nothing has really changed,” said Steph.

“We just hope that we can make some changes for kids, teenagers and adults, and what they go through on a day to day basis.”

Joanne Rankin is fundraising manager, and her five-year-old son Ollie was diagnosed

“It’s hard, but rewarding at the same time. Sometimes I just want to run away, but the group is so fantastic - if something is going on, like your child isn’t sleeping which is normal, you’ll have about forty other mums and dads saying ‘We know - try this, try that’, there’s lots of help there. The group is a lifeline.”

Appaws will hold an Easter Egg hunt on April 11.