The conclusion of a two-year initiative to provide greater opportunities in education and employment for young people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has been celebrated at Glyndŵr University.
Deis Cyfle, which means opportunity in Welsh and Gaelic, was launched in 2010 by Autism Cymru to raise awareness of autism among education providers and employers.
In collaboration with The Irish Society for Autism, the organisation provided a series of training materials and advice to teachers, employers and training agencies.
Friday’s celebration, Exploring Opportunities After School, featured workshops delivered by young people with ASD from schools in Flintshire and Wrexham.
Employment and disability organisations also attended the event, which was organised by Glyndŵr University and Autism Cymru.
The Deis Cyfle project was part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund Ireland and Wales programme 2007-13.
Lynn Plimley, head of research and partnerships at Autism Cymru, said: “I’m really, really pleased that there was such a big turnout for the event.
“We’ve achieved everything we set out to do with Deis Cyfle and give people with ASD a better range of opportunities for the rest of their lives. Over 5,000 people have attended Deis Cyfle events in the last three years and we’ve worked with some amazingly talented people on the autism spectrum.”
Speaking at the event on Friday 20 April, Professor Michael Scott, Vice-Chancellor of Glyndwr University, said: “Glyndŵr University is an appropriate venue to host an event of this kind. This is a university which has a history of opening up higher education to everyone. We said 10 years ago we wanted to be a university which is open to all but no one believed us.
“They said it couldn’t be done but the number of people with disabilities studying here has increased four-fold in that time. It’s not just about bringing people into the university, it’s about making them successful. Our students with disabilities leave here able to compete on a level playing field with other graduates and last year we had two students who were awarded first class degrees.
“Thanks to the work of Autism Cymru and the Welsh Government, Wales is leading the world in creating opportunities for people with autism. Let us not forget, either, that it was a Welsh man that brought about the National Health Service – and it is Wales which still drives the health service forward today. Today is the culmination of a two year project but the work will continue and I’m sure it will be a success.”
Lesley Griffiths AM, Minister for Health and Social Services, said: “I’m absolutely delighted to have been invited to open exploring opportunities after school. As the Welsh Government we are committed to encouraging organisations to work more closely together and it’s pleasing that the project has been so collaborative. We must do all we can to bring people with ASD into higher education and the workforce so projects like this are very welcome.”
Robert Lloyd Griffiths, Wales Autism Employment Ambassador, said: “It’s a terrific honour and pleasure, as I travel around Wales, to spread the word about the positive difference which people with autism spectrum disorder can make to the workplace. We are driving this forward in Wales to become an exemplar on the world stage.”