So it seems the future of Scottish Autism's One Stop Shop in Motherwell hangs in the balance. Three years financial support by the Scottish Government is coming to an end and as yet no joint commitment to further funding has been made by either North or South Lanarkshire councils.
One concerned parent, Karen Noble, has been very well aware of the benefits the One Stop Shop brings to understanding autism ever since her daughter was diagnosed with high-functioning autism (HFA) on her eleventh birthday. It had taken quite some time and struggle to receive the diagnosis in the first place, and afterwards the only support provided was a list of books and the One Stop Shop's phone number.
But in this case, that number was indeed the means by which Karen's daughter gained confidence and found common ground with her family and neuro-typical sister. The One Stop Shop provided courses in arts and social skills which made a great difference to a young girl with HFA, giving her the confidence to understand who she was and even explain to schoolmates that she was on the spectrum. In addition, the Shop delivered numerous courses which social workers, parents and therapists could attend plus a convenient family drop-in service.
As only about 6% of Autists hold jobs and (according to Professor Martin Knapp of the London School of Economics) "autism remains one of the UK's most expensive medical conditions, costing over £32 billion per year," you'd think any set of measures put in place to improve the lot of those on the spectrum and alleviate the ongoing financial haemorrhage would be deemed vital and continue to be supported.
But I'm afraid it's neither lie nor exaggeration to say that Scottish councils and the NHS sometimes show all the clear vision and far-sightedness of three blind mice.
After successfully completing a year-long voluntary project for South Lanarkshire Council and requesting the letter of acknowledgement and appreciation I'd been faithfully promised, I'll never forget being told by some apparatchik that "they cannae do that, the council widnae like it..."
Nor will I ever forget being left hanging in redeployment hell for four years by a Scottish NHS trust which plainly did not know what to do nor how to make any sort of decision. Aspergers need certainty and like structure. I had neither. It was hell.
There are times I'd have been happier leaving the decision-making process in the hands of said mice than with the council, and I wonder if this is one of those occasions...
Nor is it any exaggeration to say that many local families would be devastated by the Shop's closure, and in the meantime they (like I was) are left hanging in a hell of uncertainty while the councils fail to commit. Aspergers may dislike a lack of structure, but that doesn't mean neuro-typicals, conversely, have any affection for chaos, misrule or inertia.
Karen Noble is clear about her feelings on the matter:
"My daughter wouldn't be where she is without our One Stop Shop, and neither would we. The advisors have helped Amy relate to her own family, and helped us relate to her."
James Christie is the author of Dear Miss Landau and The Legend of John Macnab. He was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, a mild form of autism, at the age of 37 in 2002. He lives in the Scottish Borders.
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