A new online hub for autistic people is now available on the Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust website and has been launched in time for Neurodiversity Celebration Week (13 – 19 March, 2023).

Autism Space is a free and safe online area providing clear, reliable and accessible advice and information about autism related topics – as well as a directory of support services available in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland (LLR).

Visitors can expect advice and information on topics such as:

    • understanding the autism diagnosis and assessment process
    • support for autistic people in education and employment
    • mental health and emotional wellbeing support
    • sleep
    • functioning skills, including developing healthy relationships and developing skills and strategies
    • benefits and finances
    • support services
    • and much more.

The information has been put together by specialists from Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, Leicester City Council and the Learning Disability and Autism Collaborative, bringing together professionals from across LLR. Local autistic people and their families have also been an integral part of its design and content creation.

Information is set out into clear sections, making it easy to navigate and there are videos available in languages including English, Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati and Bengali. The Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust website also uses the ReachDeck toolbar (accessed by selecting the speak button) allowing content to be read aloud, translated into different languages, be read using a screen mask, text to be enlarged and pages simplified or displayed in different fonts and colours, making it more accessible for the reader.

Laura Smith, learning disability and autism service group manager at Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, said: “We hope this new resource will help to make a big difference to the quality of life for autistic people living in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. It can be a worrying experience for someone to get an autism diagnosis – and it can also be difficult to understand what help and support is available, even if a loved one or individual has been diagnosed for some time.

“By bringing helpful and local information together in one place in an easy-to-use format, we hope Autism Space will be the first place people check for information and advice about the neurological condition.

“We have worked diligently to create Autism Space, with the needs of autistic people in mind at all times. I’d also like to thank the local autistic people and their families and carers who have supported us to create the information and who have given their thoughts, ideas and feedback to make sure Autism Space is a great resource for autistic people living in the area.”

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability which affects how people communicate and interact with the world. Autism is a spectrum condition and affects people in different ways. Like all people, autistic people have their own strengths and difficulties. These may include challenges around social communication and social interactions, repetitive and restrictive behaviour, over, or under, sensitivity to light, sound taste or touch, highly focused interests or hobbies, extreme anxiety and meltdown and shutdowns.

Just over 1% of the population are autistic meaning there are around 11,000 people who live in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland who are autistic.

As well as the Autism Space webpages, autistic people of all ages – and their families and carers – can also get direct support from a qualified professional using ChatAutism, a safe and secure text messaging advice and support service delivered by Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust’s Specialist Autism Team (SAT).

The service is open to any autistic person living in Leicester, Leicestershire or Rutland, including children and adults of all ages, as well as their families and/ or carers. The service will also take questions from people who are awaiting to be assessed or diagnosed as autistic.

To access the service text 07312 277097. A response will be sent within 24 hours, during Monday to Friday – including the school holidays (bank holidays not included).

To view Autism Space, visit: www.leicspart.nhs.uk/autism-space/