Our History…

Autism Bedfordshire was founded in 1991 when a few parents got together to find help for their autistic children, share experiences and provide mutual support. They established a charity that began with a telephone helpline and grew into a suite of services that would give other families invaluable support over the years to come.
In response to the stress and exhaustion parents reported during the summer holidays, we introduced our first Summer Activity Scheme in 1995 to provide activities for children with autism and give their parents a much-needed break. Our 2001 membership consultation showed families also wanted to go out together and meet others in a similar situation. In response to this we launched a term-time Saturday morning support/activity group called ‘Loads of Autistic Fun (L.O.A.F.) in 2002 which was for children with autism up to age 12, their siblings and parents. Our 2003 consultation found that parents wanted social activity groups for their teenage children who often felt isolated and withdrew from society due to ridicule or bullying by their peers. We therefore introduced, in 2004, our fortnightly evening youth clubs for young people with Asperger Syndrome or high functioning autism aged 10 to 17 years. Once a year we ask the children, parents, siblings (if appropriate), staff and volunteers at our groups to complete formal written evaluation questionnaires. Unanimously, we are asked to continue with what we are providing and to increase our provision. Over the years, therefore, we have developed our Summer Activity Programme and we now run five different schemes at two locations; we have opened a further three L.O.A.F. groups and three more Wanted Fun groups. Feedback shows how much our members value these services and how their situation would be a lot worse if they had to stop.
85% of adults with autism are unemployed, even though many want to work and have skills they could bring to the workplace. In 2007 Autism Bedfordshire opened its Adult Services with an Adult Skills Project – a one day a week course teaching communication, social, employment and independence skills. We followed this up in 2008 with an Adult Social Group. We now have 3 Skills Projects and 3 Social Groups operating across the county. Following the Autism Act 2009, the Government issued statutory guidance for local councils and NHS bodies to deliver services for adults with autism. As the only specialist autism provider in the county, Autism Bedfordshire was invited to be a key participant in developing the Fulfilling and Rewarding Lives Autism Strategies. We were commissioned to run an extensive Autism Awareness Training programme for professionals throughout Bedfordshire and to date have offered places to over 1400 people.