EASTBOURNE VOLUNTEERS WITH HELEN BURTON: Find out more about Autism Stress Alert cards

Helen Burton SUS-160113-100959001
Helen Burton SUS-160113-100959001

This week I am pleased to announce that you can now pick up Autism Stress Alert cards from our community information hub at 1 The Labyrinth, 7 Mark Lane.

If you don’t know about this fantastic scheme, the cards are available to adults with autism or parents of autistic children so they can get help when shopping in Eastbourne at participating retailers – and that includes the whole of the Arndale Centre!

On production of a card to a member of staff, shoppers can get help depending on the situation, including a quick check out, help pushing a shopping trolley if an autistic child has lost control, or if you have a shopping list someone can finish your shopping for you. Staff at the Arndale Centre and other participating retailers in Eastbourne have been trained to understand the needs of autistic shoppers and their families. Even the security guards and cleaners at the centre have received the training Autism Stress Alert offers, making shopping a lot less stressful for those affected by autism.

The cards have an amber side that can be shown to let a member of staff know that the person affected is trying to cope, but if they have to wait too long they might lose control. The red side of the card means that the person is suffering from extremely high anxiety levels and that the person needs help to leave the situation as quickly as possible.

Autism Stress Alert CIC offer the card free of charge and they also liaise with parents and carers, raise awareness and train public and commercial service providers in autism sensory issues, signpost to other services and they offer paid and unpaid work placement opportunities to autistic people. As regards this last service that they provide, we will be working in collaboration with them and Posssability People to develop a range of volunteering opportunities for people with autism in Eastbourne. If your community organisation or business are interested in undertaking some training about autism and creating a suitable role within your organisation (or if you already do), please get in touch with us at eastbournevolunteers@gmail.com You can find out more about the Autism Stress Alert CIC and their card scheme at www.autismstressalert.co.uk or contact them directly at autismstressalert@gmail.com or call 07476 418135.

I know that many parents find shopping trips stressful, and that young children often have outbursts in shops and can be difficult to deal with, but when you are dealing with an autistic child they are not having a tantrum, they are experiencing a total sensory overload which can literally feel painful to them. Please remember they are not being ‘naughty’ or difficult. They are distressed and experiencing a type of pain.

Adults with autism can also become extremely overloaded by sensory input like noise, bright lights and crowds of people. Public places can become a minefield to an autistic person, and I am so pleased that our town is becoming trained in what the issues are and how to deal with them.