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Page last updated at 13:47 GMT, Thursday, 7 October 2010 14:47 UK
Staffordshire autism campaign to meet PM in London
Adam Walker
Freelance contributor

Kevin Healey promoting the campaign
Kevin Healey's campaign looks to change governmental policy

Staffordshire autism campaigner Kevin Healey is heading to London to deliver thousands of signatures supporting change in the way autism is handled.

The 36-year-old has been campaigning for the last ten years.

In May 2010, he launched the 'It's Time For Change -Stand-up For Autism' project.

The petition asks the major political party leaders to put autism at the top of their agendas.

So far Kevin has had support from celebrities and MPs and backing from the National Autistic Society (NAS) for his campaign - which started in Stoke, but has since grown nationwide.

Kevin, who is the chairman of Staffordshire Adults Autistic Society (SAAS) said: "Enough is enough. Now it's about time the government woke up to autism. Over 500,000 are affected in the UK and with the recent autism act only half a million pounds have been ploughed into autism; it's ridiculous.

"Breaking point"

Time for action
I have known people to take their own lives, families and marriages break up
Kevin Healey

"I get hundreds of calls each month with people at breaking point. They struggle to access the right support, i.e. housing, benefits, respite care and employment. I have known people to take their own lives, families and marriages break up, and more and the Government need to act now and do more for autism.

Kevin Healey also claimed that the waiting list for a diagnosis in Stoke can be 10 months, due to the service only operating two and a half hours a week.

Staffordshire has "around 11,000 people with an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD)," Mr Healey said, adding: "There are 1023 children under 16 in Stoke alone with an ASD".

So far 4000 people have signed the petition, including local MPs Joan Walley, Rob Flello and Paul Farrelly. Celebrity astrologer Russell Grant is also amongst the supporters.

SAAS recently launched the first national autism radio station in the UK - Autism Radio UK an internet based service manned by those affected by autism and Aspergers syndrome, which provides information and news to others.

'Autism Act'

Figures from the NAS
Only 15% of adults with autism in the UK are in full-time paid employment
51% of adults with autism have spent time neither in a job nor with access to benefits
An estimated one in 100 people have an ASD

Last November the government passed the Autism Act 2009 , the first legislation of its kind in the UK. It sets in law the requirement for the Secretary of State to publish a strategy for meeting the needs of autistic adults. This then has to be enacted by local authorities and the NHS.

The act was first brought to parliament by Conservative MP Cheryl Gillan who agreed to take forward a private member's bill on autism in late 2008.

A similar bill is currently going before the Scottish parliament.

Popular culture

Oliver from 'The Autistic Me'
Oliver was one of three people highlighted in 'The Autistic Me'

The image in popular culture of someone who is autistic is of either a reclusive genius or of someone with no social skills, such as in the film Mercury Rising , or with the recent case of Gary McKinnon , the 44-year-old Scotsman with Aspergers syndrome who is accused of hacking into NASA and Pentagon computers whilst looking for evidence of UFOs.

According to groups like the NAS and SAAS the majority of people with an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) can go almost unnoticed, simply appearing quirky or odd as was depicted in Matt Rudge's film The Autistic Me that aired on BBC Three's Autism Season last year.

A number of films with autism in a central role take it from the angle of someone without the condition looking in on those who do. This has attracted some criticism from critics, such as for the film Adam that was released last year to mixed reviews for its representation of a man with Aspergers syndrome.




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