Autism-friendly pioneers

People enjoying activities with True Colours CIC, which supports adults with autism or learning disabilities with autistic traits
People enjoying activities with True Colours CIC, which supports adults with autism or learning disabilities with autistic traits

Wigan could be on its way to becoming the first “autism-friendly” town in the North West.

Community interest company True Colours has been awarded £9,992 by the Big Lottery Fund in its latest round of grants.

People enjoying activities with True Colours CIC, which supports adults with autism or learning disabilities with autistic traits

People enjoying activities with True Colours CIC, which supports adults with autism or learning disabilities with autistic traits

It plans to use the money to set up an autism consultancy and training provider to raise awareness of a much misunderstood condition.

Staff and people with autism will visit businesses and social organisations to help them to understand the challenges faced by people with the condition.

Marian Milling, founder and director of Leigh-based True Colours, said: “It’s about working towards making Wigan and Leigh a more autism-friendly borough by providing awareness and training, so that families and individuals with autism can go into the shops and into social and leisure outlets and enjoy the same facilities that you and I would enjoy.”

She said people with autism may struggle with “sensory overload” when they go into a supermarket, for example.

They could have problems with air conditioning when they walk through the doors, music and people at the entrance.

Mrs Milling said: “If you were looking at giving training and awareness to companies such as supermarkets, they could look at how they arrange their environment better to meet the needs of people.

“Autism is a hidden disability really so anyone can suffer from stress and anxiety from it.

“They could be more welcoming to families coming in and also have certain quiet hours where parents can come in to do shopping without all the hustle and bustle.”

She also said some businesses could make changes to the way they work or where someone with autism sits to help.

True Colours supports adults with autism or learning disabilities with autistic traits and also has a small base at Highfield Community Centre.

The funding will allow them to train staff, volunteers and people on the autism spectrum to run sessions for businesses.

They will then be recognised as “autism friendly” and given stickers to highlight their status to members of the public.

Mrs Milling said many people with autism and their families have disposable incomes but do not feel comfortable going into shops, for example.

She said: “I would like us to be one of the first autism-friendly towns in the North West. At the moment Liverpool is working towards being an autism-friendly city.

“I think we have good facilities here and an understanding community but we need to stretch things and make it more inclusive.”