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The National Autistic Society’s Helen Allison School in Meopham wants businesses to be more autism friendly

The National Autistic Society’s Helen Allison School in Meopham hosted an event to raise awareness of the condition and the benefits autistic people can bring to businesses.

More than 10% of people in the UK are on the autism spectrum and only 16% of them are in full-time work and school head teacher Susan Conway wanted to encourage employers to give them a chance.

Mayor of Dartford Cllr John Burrell, wife and Mayoress Eija, and Mayor of Gravesham Cllr Greta Goatley, with Emma Jones from the National Autistic Society

Mayor of Dartford Cllr John Burrell, wife and Mayoress Eija, and Mayor of Gravesham Cllr Greta Goatley, with Emma Jones from the National Autistic Society

“People on the autism spectrum have got so much to offer and can have strengths such as tenacity and thinking differently and I’m proud we could share this message,” she said.

“With a little understanding and small adjustments to the workplace, people on the autism spectrum can be a real asset to businesses across the UK.”

Among those in attendance were the mayors of Dartford and Gravesham, Cllr John Burrell and Cllr Greta Goatley, Dartford council leader Cllr Jeremy Kite, and Dartford Labour leader Cllr Jonathon Hawkes.

“With a little understanding and small adjustments to the workplace, people on the autism spectrum can be a real asset to businesses across the UK" Susan Conway

They heard presentations about the potential of autistic people and tried out a virtual reality experience showing what it might be like to be autistic and experience too much information.

Some children with autism are so sensitive to light or sound that an overhead light or humming computer can be physically painful, while a small change to the day’s schedule like the school bus turning up late can feel like the end of the world.

Conditions such as these can make finding a job difficult after leaving school.

Ms Conway said: “It was wonderful to see so many people come to learn about autism and the potential of our students.

“I’m grateful to Tim Cook, our family liaison officer, and other colleagues within our charity for organising this.”

Stone councillor Mandy Garford was also there and has children of her own on the autistic spectrum. She has worked with other children as a primary school teacher.

Cllr Garford is preparing an art exhibition alongside Dartford artist Stephen Oliver, with autistic youngsters being invited to contribute to a display in his gallery showcasing what the condition means to them.

The display will go up in Mr Oliver’s gallery in The Orchards Shopping Centre, Dartford, next month.

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