Specialist Autism Services (formerly known as Sacar) has worked exclusively for and with adults on the autism spectrum and their families since 1999. With premises across the Yorkshire region, we now provide a range of services including autism-specific counselling, employment support, group social skills workshops, autism awareness training and community outreach support.
Since being chosen as the Lord Mayor’s charity last May, we have enjoyed a busy year packed with events hosted by some of the best venues around Leeds. These proved to be fantastic opportunities for the individuals that we support to get involved and gain new experiences as well as giving us a louder voice in order to raise awareness of autism spectrum conditions.
Perhaps the most ambitious project was the building of a 201,000 LEGO mosaic of the Leeds crest, designed by the Lord Mayor’s daughter, Harriet. This was taken to various venues, such as the Trinity and White Rose centres, and completed at World Autism Awareness Day (1st April 2016) at the Civic Hall. For a small donation, members of the public could place LEGO bricks onto the plate to gradually reveal the final design. We were overwhelmed by the amount of people that came down to get involved or to seek information about autism! Tony, a Leeds service user (member) said, “I have really enjoyed the LEGO project because it has been good to meet people, going to different places and getting involved. I did all of the LEGO events from start to finish and I liked chatting to the public and have managed to be there on time and cope really well with the crowds”. Thomas, another Leeds member said “I am really grateful for the LEGO project because it raised money to help those who are struggling with autism”.
Another favourite with our members was the autism-friendly banquet held at the Civic Hall. This was a non-fundraising event to provide the opportunity for adults with autism across the city to experience a glamorous night out in a comfortable environment. George, a Leeds member that attended, said “It was such an honour to be invited to a banquet for the first time. I felt so proud to be such a big part of SAS. I wish to thank [the Lord Mayor] for hosting such an event and wish her nothing but the very best for the future.”
In August we got lucky with the British weather for our summer fete, held at our Otley premises to raise awareness of autism. The Lord Mayor joined us for tea and cakes and enjoyed looking at a showcase of member artwork and stalls full of handmade gifts. The Leeds Textiles workshop worked hard to make a fabulous stall and said “All of the members contributed to our wonderful stall that involved designs and crafts that had been recycled/upcycled.”
Our year as the chosen charity culminated in the ‘Just One Day’ event that coincided with World Autism Awareness Day. For those brave enough to volunteer, a fire walk was held on Millennium Square. This saw staff and members of Specialist Autism Services, as well as other individuals from across the city tentatively tread across hot coals in turn for sponsorship.
All in all we have thoroughly enjoyed our time as the Lord Mayor’s chosen charity. We have been amazed by the level of commitment the Lord Mayor and her office have shown during this time and are truly thankful for this. To date we have raised invaluable funds, sourced many resources and have raised awareness of autism, all whilst having such a great time! Sikander, a Leeds member said “Thank you for everything. I really enjoyed the LEGO and enjoyed helping out. More awareness of Autism will help me and others.”