Wigan family supports autism awareness Christmas campaign

A Wigan family has given its backing to a new social media campaign urging residents to think of people with autism at Christmas.

Friday, 21st December 2018, 7:16 am
Updated Friday, 21st December 2018, 8:23 am
Karen Berry with her son Hayden, nine,

Karen Berry, who lives in Hindley, says the festive period can be a tough time for those looking after young people with the condition due to the disruptions to the usual schedules for one-off events and the sensory overload of bright flashing lights all over houses and public places.

Her nine-year-old son Hayden has autism and she is keen to spread the word as it is still quite widely misunderstood.

Facebook users are doing their bit to raise awareness with pictures of a couple of elves called Buddy and Betty standing with a note between them raising awareness.

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The messages have been widely shared by Wiganers with family members who have autism.

And Karen spoke of her delight that something is being done to keep the issue in the spotlight in the run-up to December 25.

She said: “Hayden gets very anxious as well. They’ve been doing the Christmas nativity play and that can be quite stressful for him because it’s a change in routine.

“He gets overwhelmed and it can be too much for him. He really worries about it and sometimes doesn’t get much sleep because things like that play on his mind.

“When we’re out he gets obsessions and things he has to do and he really gets worked up. He also has problems with noise and wears ear defenders out.

“He can’t go to certain places like the markets where it is quite busy and there’s a lot of shouting. We went to the Christmas markets in Manchester once and it got too much, we had to come home.

“It can be quite difficult for siblings too. Most of my time is taken up with Hayden so sometimes my daughter can feel a bit left out when she wants some attention.

“I’m always sharing stuff to do with autism on Facebook and when I saw the elves pictures I just thought it was a great idea.

“A lot of people don’t really understand children with autism. They think they are being naughty and having tantrums and it’s not always like that.

“It’s about thinking before you judge. Not every child is playing up.”

The Facebook pictures shows the two scarlet-clad elves flanking a piece of paper saying: “Buddy and Betty would like your help to raise some awareness of autism this Christmas. Please please share our photo.”

The National Autistic Society has compiled information and suggestions to help families with relations with autism have an enjoyable Christmas.

It advises keeping the usual routines in place as much as possible around things like food and meal times.

The whole Christmas break will need careful planning and discussions should be held with everyone involved as early as possible, with visual aids like calendars being useful to ensure people know what will happen in advance.

Quiet spaces should be set aside for an autistic person, while other tips include enjoying the colours from a bus’ upper deck to avoid the crowds.

More information is available by visiting www.autism.org.uk/