A couple of days ago I was filmed for my first monthly news piece on Autism with Sky’s The Chrissy B Show the UK’s only TV show dedicated to mental health and well-being. One of the topics I spoke about was that recently many parents have contacted me via the charity website or via social media sharing that they are struggling to find and access out of school clubs or groups such as performing arts, sport etc and sadly they have been turned away due to their autism. I wanted to see how wide spread across the UK this was happening to families. As the founder of our well known Autism’s got Talent annual show and seeing first hand how wonderfully talented autistic individuals can be showcasing their talent in the creative arts and media world. So I set up a Facebook survey a couple of weeks ago (Please click here to complete survey if you have not as yet) , so far 250 families have completed the survey.

Questions I asked were :

  1. Has your child ever been turned away from a local club , performing arts class, sports facility or leisure environment due to their autism?
    Over 50% of the participants have said yes and have added this has made their children feel upset and even more isolated.
  2. Does your child have a hobby or talent?
    Over 70% have replied yes. Hobbies and talents ranged from Dancing, Mine-craft, Playing the keyboard, making videos, Horse Riding, Sailing, Golf , Computer Games, Programming and many more.
  3. Do you have Autism friendly clubs in your area ?
    Only 53% of families have replied yes.

I asked my husband who is our charities legal adviser about ‘The Equality Act 2010’ that came largely into force in October, 2010. He shared this was designed to stop people with identified protected characteristics from being discriminated against. One of the protected characteristics is disability and the definition of what constitutes a disability is found in the statute in section 6.  In summary, a disability is:

  • A physical or mental impairment
  • Which has long term (meaning lasting for or likely to last a least a year) substantial (meaning more than minor or trivial) adverse effect on the person who has the disability’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities

The overall aim of the strategy is to promote quality and its applicability is wide ranging. Clubs which provide activities for children are certainly covered in relation to disabled children, even if they a voluntary and they would be advised to make themselves aware of what the Equality Act Says and it should be said that may clubs do a good job. In summary, clubs should certainly  not just refuse to allow children to join simply because they have a disability. At the very least should look at what reasonable adjustments or accommodations they should make for potential and actual members and guests. This removes any disadvantage the disabled child is subject to because of their disability which results because of the way the club is run.

I am hoping that families will share where their autism friendly clubs are located so that we can share across the UK and other autistic individuals can benefit.

Anna Kennedy OBE