Probation staff raising awareness about autism

Community Director Karen Rooney will be undertaking a day’s Community Payback in the Wirral in order to raise awareness about autism.

The fundraising event is in aid of the National Autistic Society and is part of World Autism Week. Autism is a lifelong developmental condition that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others. Autistic people can have difficulties with everyday social communication, social interaction, repetitive behaviours and sensory issues.

Karen’s son has the condition. The Community Director for Merseyside Community Rehabilitation Company is being joined on the Community Payback project by colleagues.

The unpaid work initiative is for Autism Together – a provider of services and support to people with autism, and their families – and involves volunteers cutting down re-growth on Mersey View.

She said: “As a young and relatively inexperienced probation officer I recall with some personal shame a young male I supervised who had a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome.

“Being armed with little other than something I looked up on the internet, I felt ill equipped to understand his behaviour and how to develop a common understanding. He often comes to mind, particularly as my own young son has autism.

“We all come into contact with individuals on the autistic spectrum – many may be undiagnosed. We know that autistic individuals are more likely to be victims and witnesses of crime than actually offend, but those who do offend may do so for a number of reasons.”

These include social naivete; difficulty with unexpected events (as an example, anxiety and distress can manifest in aggression); misunderstanding of social cues; rigid adherence to rules; and not understanding the implications of certain behaviours.

Karen urged colleagues to learn more about the condition by visiting the Prison Reform Trust’s Mental Health, Autism & Learning Disabilities in the Criminal Courts: www.mhldcc.org.uk . People can donate to Karen’s event by logging onto: www.justgiving.com/karenrooney3