The south-east based social care charity supports children, young people and adults with autism and associated learning needs.
During the awareness week it has a number of creative activities running.
The ‘My AuSome Art’ competition for children and young people, with entrants being encouraged to use any medium they would like to express their creativity, from Lego to photography.
The competition will be judged by Aspens’ chair of trustees Gill Marcus and trustee Peter Green, and winners announced will be announced during Autism Awareness Week.
An AuSome Spectrum ebook will be produced to showcase the artwork entered after the event and all funds raised through the competition will go towards helping the Aspens’ Family Support team to continue providing their services.
Emily Morley, 9 ¾, lives in Lancing, West Sussex.
Emily was seven years old when she found out she was autistic. She meets with her Aspens’ key worker Lucy once a week to talk about her autism.
Lucy helps Emily to understand her autism as well as working with her on ways to control her anger and her anxiety.
Emily’s parents say they have really helped help them and have supported Emily with her autism at school as well as at home.
Emily said: “Living with autism is OK, but I do get angry at little things and I don’t know why. When I am angry I do not care about other things. Being autistic does not suck but it makes it hard for me and not the best way to live in some situations.”
During the awareness week Aspens will be sharing videos featuring the stories from those it supports describing how art helps them express themselves and showing examples of the amazing work they’ve produced across their social media and on their website.
Miranda has autism and is supported by Aspens.
She said: “I like to paint anything realistic like nature and buildings and I especially like oil painting. The last year has been incredibly frustrating, being cooped up and not being able to see our families very much. I don’t really know how I would have coped if it wasn’t for my art. It’s really therapeutic and calming and good for my mental health.”
Ronnie Jameson is 19 and lives in Lewes, East Sussex
He said: “I have been autistic since I was a toddler. I knew I was different because I didn’t go to the same schools as my older brother. Instead I went to ‘special schools’. My mum always told me that’s because I’m extra special. I didn’t mind because I really, really loved being at The Lindfield School in Eastbourne because I had friends there.
“But when I left, I was heart-broken because I wouldn’t see my friends every day like before. And suddenly, being autistic in the outside world seemed a bit lonely.
“But Aspens gives me my Club. I was in the Teenz Club but now we are older, I’m in the Young Adults Club. My Club means friends and day trips and PGL stays and I’ve been to Harry Potter World and Chessington World of Adventures, the London Eye, Legoland and even Thorpe Park. Club means I have friends. Club means I get grown-up time away from my family. Club makes me feel grown up and independent and like I have a proper life.
“During lockdown I’ve missed the trips so much. But Curtis from Aspens sorts out regular video group chats and that has been amazing so I can talk to my club friends and it’s meant I haven’t got too lonely. I cannot CANNOT wait until we can see each other again and Curtis says we might be able to go bowling in Eastbourne soon.”
Aspens is also hosting a Facebook Live Question & Answer sessions with Aspens’ family specialist support team offering help and advice on issues surrounding autism and garden designer Camelia Taylor will be giving daily social media updates on sensory plants and how nature can help express creativity and boost wellbeing.
Robbie Shanahan, CEO of Aspens said: “It has been a challenging year and the people we care for have been some of the hardest hit by COVID-19 in our society.
“Keeping busy and occupied has helped enormously through lockdown and so many of the people we support enjoy arts and crafts.
“After such tough times, we wanted to focus on something really positive for Autism Awareness Week this year, and to remind people how art can be incredibly beneficial and therapeutic for those with autism.”
Aspens operates across South England, including offices in Battle and Littlehampton.
The charity provides a wide range of services such as round-the-clock residential care, supported living, an advice helpline and specialist support for families.
Zach Dodgson is 17 and lives in Battle, East Sussex
He found out he was autistic when he was three years old, he currently attends the Teenz Group.
He said: “Aspens staff help me to feel relaxed and calm. Having autism, sometimes things can get a bit overwhelming for me, but as long as you are able to manage it, it’s not so bad.
“I’d like to say to all the people who have autism - don’t be ashamed of it. Don’t feel it makes you a freak or an outcast. Autism is what makes you unique.”
The awareness week will round up on Friday, April 2, with a kids’ Insta-takeover when young people supported by Aspens will be taking control of the charity’s Instagram page for the day and showing off their most creative art, video and photography.
People with autism and learning disabilities have been particularly impacted by the pandemic and lockdown, and a recent study found 9 in 10 autistic people worried about their mental health during lockdown and 85 per cent said their anxiety levels got worse (Left Stranded report by National Autistic Society, Sept 2020).
Being creative and taking part in arts and crafts has been a lifeline for many of the people Aspens supports.
Ryan, who has autism and is supported by Aspens said: “I joined an art group and have produced some art that I’m really proud of including a painting by numbers picture of Yoda. People have felt isolated due to lockdown but being creative and keeping occupied with my art has really helped me get through lockdown and this period.”
My AuSome Art competition is open to all (£5 entry fee, with all entrants receiving the online book) you can regsiter here: register.enthuse.com/ps/event/AuSomeArtCompetitionAspens Facebook/Twitter - @aspenscharities and Instagram - @aspens_charities