‘Living with autism is emotionally draining’: new Autism Connects social group helping locals be their best
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Keen to improve autism provision in the Preston area is councillor Daniel Duckworth. “I was diagnosed with autism in 2015, which was a while ago but quite late in my life, because I’m 30 now,” says Daniel. “I struggled at school and had a rough experience… I was bullied. I have a lot of internal meltdowns, but I mask my autism a lot really, so I’ve got a set routine.”
Alongside his partner Emma, Daniel is starting a new Autism Connect social group every other Monday at Disability Equality North West, with the first meeting taking place on April 3 from 1pm to 3pm. “I met Emma at a peer support group, so I’m really proud of Autism Connects,” says Daniel. “Because living with autism is emotionally draining.
“I often describe my head as a funnel - information is fed in a 1,000mph, but it doesn’t go through fast enough. So, as a councillor, I’m proud to raise awareness.” Emma agrees. “I have autism and ADHD,” she says. “I’ve always wanted to run a group which allows people to fit in with others just like them. It’s about being accepted and not judged and bullied.
“I was diagnosed at 15 and, like Daniel, felt like I was never understood,” Emma adds. “I feel like I have to put a mask on but, at home, I can breathe. I’m so excited about the group.”
Disability Equality North West’s Jennifer Carthy is a huge supporter of the group, saying: “Daniel planted the seed to do something for Autism Acceptance Week. The important thing is that we hear the lived experiences of autistic people. They should have their voices heard, so we’ve got lots of speakers as well as some films from the National Autism Society.
“The group will be fun and interactive and I hope it will smash all the myths and stereotypes around autism,” adds Jennifer. “We should focus on the unique talents autistic people bring and it’s all about giving people the chance to showcase their talents. It’s also crucial that we break down barriers because we need to embrace difference rather than avoiding it.”
Another huge supporter has been Daniel’s fellow councillor David Walker. “I first came across Dan four years ago when he wanted to become a councillor,” says David. “He was successful and is very proud to do the job, but we’re also very proud of what he’s achieved. His enthusiasm is infectious - he’s forever saying ‘I’ll help’. He’s a whirlwind.
“Understanding autism is vital and each person living with autism is different, so it’s about being open-minded. I’m very proud to be involved in something like this, which can help people. It’s all about having empathy whilst not treating people with kid gloves.”