In early March, Autism Alliance UK launched an exciting new version of Autism Connect, a social media platform for people with autism and their families and carers. It offers a platform to connect with like-minded people, find local service providers and access free information resources.
People with autism can have difficulty with communication, social understanding and sensory issues, as well as anxiety. This can mean that people with autism may struggle with building and maintaining friendships and relationships. Providing a safe, online environment empowers people by allowing them to interact in a low-risk way. People can communicate in the comfort and safety of their own homes, which can help to reduce their anxiety.
Autism Connect enables autistic people to use digital tools to engage with and learn more about their local communities. They can meet like-minded people and share their stories and experiences. They can also use features such as the Service Directory and Calendar to stay up to date on local events. The site provides peer support through story sharing and social networking as well as information resources and e-learning.
This free service offers a variety of great services for those with autism including:
• Service Directory – The service directory lists autism services nationwide and also features a ratings and review system so that users can share their experiences.
• Information resources – A great range of free e-learning courses, downloadable information sheets and visual resources that can help people learn more about autism.
• Blog Posts – Users are encouraged to write posts of their own to share with the autism community.
• Q + A – Users can ask and answer questions and search for previous answers.
• Events & Calendar – Users can find events that are happening in a specific area from coffee mornings to training workshops.
Additionally, Autism Alliance UK is currently developing a mapping tool for Autism Connect that will allow users to find services and autism-friendly locations available near them. Just in time for World Autism Awareness Day 2015, Autism Alliance UK will also release a new free e-learning package about sensory issues.
Autism Connect is funded by the Department of Health and is part of a wider project, Connect to Autism, to raise awareness of autism nationally. Autism Connect will provide a central hub for information sharing and delivery, as well as a platform for online learning.