Autism Champions

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three people holding the autism champions charter Janet Dugdale, Director of waterfront venues at National Museums Liverpool, with Robin Bush, Chief Executive, Autism Together, and Christina Smith, Customer Services Co-ordinator, Liverpool John Lennon Airport

We have thousands of visitors coming to enjoy our museums and galleries every year, in fact, almost three million of you came to visit us in 2014/15! Ensuring everyone has a positive visitor experience is important to us, so I was really pleased to learn that we have signed up to be an Autism Champion under a new scheme called Connect to Autism.

The scheme, being piloted in eight areas around the UK, aims to tackle social isolation by spreading awareness and understanding. We have joined six other organisations around the North West, including Chester Zoo, Liverpool John Lennon Airport and Cheshire Oaks, to sign up as champions. We are working with Wirral-based charity Autism Together, which is co-ordinating the Connect to Autism scheme in the North West, to provide staff training in autism awareness, and ensuring there is a supportive work environment to staff members living with autism.

I was shocked to find out that there are around 700,000 people in the UK living with autism, many of whom struggle to be part of community life. Recent statistics from a survey by the National Autistic Society found that, compared with 11% of the UK population who reported feeling lonely, 41% of adults living with autism felt lonely and left out.

Yvonne Crowhurst, Head of Autism in Practice at Autism Together said: "It is immensely gratifying to see that people are raising awareness of autism. It's recognised that one in 100 people have autism, but you could double that by including those not diagnosed.”

Janet Dugdale, Director of waterfront venues at National Museums Liverpool said: "We are always looking for ways to improve the quality of our visitors' experiences.  We'll be stronger working together in a partnership on this. We'll be able to apply Autism Together’s knowledge and experience to our museums and galleries, and to our staff development."

The staff training is taking place in March and, as Internal Communications Officer for National Museums Liverpool, I’m attending one of the sessions. I’m looking forward to finding out what I can do to help support visitors and staff living with autism.