> Email: Nasbristolbranch@nas.org.uk
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Until everyone understands
Bristol Branch started out 25 years ago as an Avon group. The group was started by parents and relatives of young people with autism who recognised the need for more support for families affected by autism in the Bristol area, as at the time there was none.
The group started by holding regular meetings at Windmill Hill City Farm in Bristol, allowing parents / carers time to meet and talk and build support networks.
The group continued to grow with more and more families seeking support, and around 18 years ago became NAS Bristol Branch.
At this time the Bristol Branch would meet for weekly play activities during school holidays at Windmill Hill City Farm, where they would have exclusive use of the rumpus room and adventure play ground. As more people became involved, the branch was able to increase its provision and began regular swimming sessions at Speedwell and Backwell pools. They also ventured further afield with coach trips to Lego Land and various other days out for families.
Most importantly they organised a monthly drop-in which parents and carers could attend during term times while children were at school. This became a lifeline for many users, a chance to go out and meet others in similar situations. The drop-ins were an opportunity to talk about the ups and downs of life and share information.
Before the days of the internet, there were very few places people could find more information on autism. To tackle this and ensure families were able to find information, NAS Bristol began a lending library for its members with books and leaflets parents could view at meetings or take away until the next meeting.
NAS Bristol members were very proactive in fighting for more opportunities for autistic children in Bristol, and from their campaigning, much valued services such as the Bristol Autism Project (BAP) were born, organising holiday activities for children with autism.
After BAP was established 12 years ago, NAS Bristol continued to offer closed session activities for its members during school holidays and weekends. The monthly support meetings continued to offer parents / carers advice and support. Several of our committee members attended meetings at Bristol City Council to give parents with autistic children a voice.
Now, we have a very active online community through Facebook, allowing parents to talk and seek advice and support 24/7. We still organise monthly inclusive play activities for children with autism and their families to take part in. We have moved away from hosting monthly drop-ins and instead now concentrate more on providing speaker events, linking in with other organisations such as Contact A Family and Cerebra to provide more information to our members on the recurring issues such as sleep and behaviour.
We also have a presence at Bristol City Council meetings for Health, Transitions and Short Breaks, to hopefully continue to shape the way services are run and to increase opportunities for young people with autism in Bristol.
The Bristol Branch is continuing to grow with new members joining every week, which is amazing!
New members bring more support for the work we do and more people wishing to be a part of the group as fundraisers and volunteers.
We have lots of plans to increase the number of meetings we organise and to work alongside other organisations to provide some great opportunities for parents / carers to learn more about autism and other topics linked to autism.
We hope to offer more play opportunities in more areas of the city to include as many families as possible.
We hope to continue working with local education providers to help more families access NAS Bristol Branch.