Page last updated at 05:50 GMT, Monday, 10 May 2010 06:50 UK

Project to boost opportunities for autistic people

Poster from autism project launch in Ireland
The project seeks engagement between autistic people and schools and employers

A project providing training for schools and businesses to raise awareness of autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) is to begin in parts of Wales.

Deis Cyfle, which means "opportunity" in Irish and Welsh, aims to provide greater opportunities for autistic school-leavers and job seekers.

The three-year project is a collaboration between Autism Cymru and the Irish Society for Autism.

The scheme will be officially launched at the Senedd on Monday.

Autism Cymru said levels of understanding and awareness about ASD among typical post-school providers such as companies, higher or further education and leisure services were often minimal, and in some cases were misinformed.

The charities have developed a three-day training package and self-evaluation tool, with material tailored for secondary school teachers, further education and leisure providers, and employers.

The project will be run in Gwynedd, Anglesey, Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Swansea, Wrexham and Flintshire, and through parts of the Irish Republic.

I have no doubt that I am happy and succeeding at school because of one thing - and that is awareness. I'm sad to say this hasn't always been the case
Thomas Pinder

Lynn Plimley is the project manager for Deis Cyfle.

She said: "The understanding and knowledge of the issues for people with ASD is critical to achieving success in the world of work, leisure and further and higher education.

"Without knowledge and understanding behaviours and actions can be easily misinterpreted with often negative consequences.

"By developing relevant training and awareness raising packages, teachers, employers, lecturers, leisure workers and other service providers will appreciate the many gifts and competencies of people with ASD as well as understanding where the individual is coming from."

The project has received European Regional Development funding for three years.

She added: "It is hoped that the data and research generated through the activity of the project will sustain the work beyond the end of funding and enable the training to be delivered across the whole of Wales and Ireland."

Thomas Pinder, a Year 11 student with Asperger syndrome, said he did not see the condition as a weakness or disorder, but as a difference.

"I have no doubt that I am happy and succeeding at school because of one thing - and that is awareness. I'm sad to say this hasn't always been the case.

"Awareness of Asperger's and autism is essential. I know, as someone who has Asperger's, how many times I have told somebody that I have it, only to be greeted with a blank face and shrugged shoulders.

"More and more members of the public need to be aware that Asperger's Syndrome and autism do exist and that people do have it.

"I know that when I leave school and go to university and into employment, it would make my life much easier if staff and colleagues were aware of my disorder."

The launch takes place at the Senedd at 1730 BST.

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