The pandemic has made life challenging for most people in different ways and, with this week being World Autism Awareness Week, a West Norfolk group has highlighted how it has responded to a year of lockdowns.
The West Norfolk branch of the National Autistic Society (NAS) supports more than 400 local families and the isolation and change in routine created by the pandemic had a big impact on their lives.
“This past year has been extremely difficult for our autistic community.
“Engaging in school work has proven particularly testing, as often autistic people may find it difficult to generalise doing things in a different setting.
“Our young people, who rely so heavily on their activities to keep them motivated and engaged, have all struggled significantly.
“This has created huge hardship emotionally for many of our people who are without the activities they depend on and who have become isolated and disengaged,” a branch spokesman said.
“This has in many cases proven exhausting for close family and carers, not least for the autistic person themselves.
“For our young adults who may live in residential accommodation to be cut off from those they love, has been heartbreaking.”
Like many other organisations, the group has had to find other ways to keep in touch with its members.
“We have run themed competitions all year which have really boosted morale.
“We have worked with other community groups so many of our members have been making beautiful woodwork projects.
“We have been sending out sensory packs as so many, if not all, of our members have very different sensory perceptual differences.
“Our members of all ages, recently wrote to the elderly residents of Westfields in Swaffham, sending them cards pictures, drawings and messages of hope from one part of our community to another. The response has been really inspirational,” the spokesman said.
The branch is keen to make people aware of its work and also for the public to engage with autistic people in their neighbourhood.
World awareness week ends on Easter Sunday, but the branch said every day was autism day for some families.
The special week will be marked by a flood of pink and purple light on King’s Lynn town centre buildings in conjunction with West Norfolk Council.
The Corn Exchange in the Tuesday Market Place is set to be aglow with the NAS colours today (Friday).
The spokesman said: “We mark this special week by raising awareness and acceptance of autism within our community here in West Norfolk.
“We are delighted that the local borough council will be lighting up King’s Lynn town pink and purple to mark the colours of the National Autistic Society.”
The branch is run by unpaid volunteers who are either parents or carers or are autistic themselves.
“We don’t receive any central funding from NAS and rely on kind, local people to raise funds and awareness for us.
“We would normally be running a wide range of physical activities such as swimming, gym, trampolining, cinema, bushcraft, sensory, soft play and many more – we cannot wait to get these started again.”
If you can help the branch or would like to find out more about its support work, email firstname.lastname@example.org