MORE than 500 people who are supported by or work for the National Autistic Society have joined forces to walk as many miles as possible by the end of World Autism Awareness Week (4 April 2021). They have walked an amazing 50 million steps so far, which is around 22,000 miles. That’s almost 37% of the way around the globe!
This is part of the charity’s adult services’ Spring Forward Challenge, which aims to create more opportunities for the autistic people they support to be active. Everyone taking part records their steps in the World Walking app, which shows how far everyone has collectively travelled worldwide.
The National Autistic Society created the challenge in response to feedback from the families of people they support who wanted more opportunities for their loved ones to exercise and spend time in nature – particularly during the lockdown. This is proven to benefit mood, mental health and wellbeing, and brings people together.
The autistic people taking part, including Emma from the charity’s New Mills Court service in Swansea, say that the challenge has helped their mental and physical health and that they enjoy the teamwork element of walking together and seeing how far around the planet they can go. They’ve also embraced the Spring Forward Challenge spirit by making posters of the countries they’ve visited (virtually, via the app).
The National Autistic Society supports autistic adults in various ways, including 24-hour care in their own homes and extra help for people in their own or the charity’s homes. The challenge culminates on the final day of this year’s World Autism Awareness Week on 4 April.
New Mills Court is a place where autistic people can learn new skills, develop their interests and try new experiences. People who come to the centre can choose from a range of opportunities, all of which are designed to help them develop life skills, make decisions and gain confidence to become more independent.
Lynnette Jefford, a Support Worker at the charity’s New Mills Court service, said:
“It is great to see the people we support enjoying the journey. It’s not just a walk, it’s an experience to see the world.”
Natasha Williams, who is also a Support Worker at the charity’s New Mills Court service, said:
“It has been great to see the people we support and staff enjoying taking part in this challenge.”
Caroline Stevens, Chief Executive of the National Autistic Society, said:
“What an achievement. Well done to everyone involved!
“The past 12 months been really hard for many autistic people, particularly adjusting to new restrictions, the changes to routines, and not being able to see loved ones. I’ve been so impressed with the creative ways our adult services teams are helping people through this, like setting up a replica ice cream parlour, cinema and pub last year.
“And now, they’re inspiring us all to keep active, with all the physical and mental health benefits this brings. What a brilliant way to mark World Autism Awareness Week. Good luck everyone, can’t wait to see how far you get!”
Find out more about World Autism Awareness Week and how you can get involved by visiting autism.org.uk/waaw.