For any small charity to have set up and helped hundreds, if not thousands, of people for a decade is no mean feat.

To have done so, and continued to grow and develop, and celebrate its 10th anniversary with bundles of hope and ambition for the future, is even better. And that is the case with Cheshire Autism Practical Support, or ChAPS, for short.

Jo Garner, Managing Director, first set up ChAPS those 10 years ago. Since then, the charity has supported countless people on the autism spectrum and their families, with the ambition to ‘support and educate parents to help your child be the best that they can be’.

The longevity, and the success, has been very much down to a team effort.

“ChAPS has been running now for ten years which I think is an incredible achievement in the current climate,” says Jo, who first started the charity to help her own son, who is on the autism spectrum. Jo said: “It is all down to our team, which is a tightly-knit family unit primarily of staff who are parents themselves of a child or adult with additional needs.We all understand the difficulties and issues and celebrate the successes and amazing capability of all of our members.”

Jo Garner from Cheshire Autism“One of our patrons – Anna Kennedy OBE – is a hugely inspirational personality and runs Anna Kennedy Online, a national charity helping to increase awareness of autism.

Anna’s extremely successful ‘Autism’s Got Talent’ event has run for nine years now and it celebrates how awesome children and adults on the autism spectrum are in an evening of performances in theatres up and down the country.

Anna will be bringing her roadshow to Cheshire in May and we are so excited that she will be up North to present her very special evening of entertainment for ChAPS as we celebrate 10 years.”

Anna said: “I am excited to be working with ChAPS for our Autism’s got Talent Roadshow. I am proud of being a patron to this wonderful charity and feel honoured to be celebrating 10 years with what will be a night to remember!”

The event takes place at The Brindley in Runcorn, and anyone on the autism spectrum (whether diagnosed or not) is in with a chance of featuring in the performance.

Those interested are asked to submit a video clip and short biography to Emily at warrington@cheshireautism.org.uk before February 28 2020.
As with all charities, funding is essential for ChAPS to be able to continue to provide the range of activities which they do.

Receiving a second National Lottery grant for a Sustainability Project, which will last for five years, is a “game changer” as it secures the charity’s future without leaving it reliant on successfully securing future grants. This project has allowed ChAPS to offer accredited Professional Training with Open Awards including workshops such as ‘Introduction to Autism’ being very well received.

The Open Awards carry a mix of theory, practical advice and workshops, with ‘Pathological Demand Avoidance’ another to have been completed, and others such as ‘Working with autistic adults’ planned for the future.The second initiative of this project is Learning 4 Life, a specialist-led social care provision for adults on the autism spectrum, again whether they have been diagnosed or not.

The initial project in Northwich has enjoyed “remarkable engagement” and will soon be expanded to include Widnes and Chester, with anyone interested encouraged to contact ChAPS. Funding from clinical commissioning groups is also allowing ChAPS to run further parent training workshops whilst NHS England are supporting child and adult mindfulness courses, Lego and Play Therapy across the county.

Also, the experience and improvements seen to the families whom ChAPS have taken on summer camping excursions in North Wales has prompted the ambition to fund a campsite, with anyone knowing any suitable land available in Cheshire also invited to contact the charity.

The charity’s range of services continue, including putting on daytime activities such as Animal interaction, Craft and Art and ice-skating for the growing number of children who are being home-educated.

Funding provided for British Science Week will see ChAPS providing STEM activities both to home educators and their general membership at the charity’s Kidz and Youth Clubs. ChAPS has offices in Runcorn, Cheshire and a training room in Northwich, but are also keen to expand further.

“As the charity has grown and the staffing accordingly, we are now looking for premises for an Autism Centre,” adds Jo: “We run 90 activities every month and a lot of the intensive work that we do needs premises to be available both in the daytime and evening.It is the next step for our small charity and we are super-excited to be in this position but again, we would love to hear from anyone who knows of any buildings that might be suitable in the mid-Cheshire area.The future is certainly bright and exciting!”

Anyone able to help with any of the above is asked to contact ChAPS on 0344 850 8607 or email info@cheshireautism.org.uk

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News ChAPS celebrates tenth anniversary