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This weeks blog has been written by Head of Fundraising and Communications, Stephen Knott. Stephen has taken a look back at his experiences during his first year of working at Autism East Midlands.

A little over a year ago I saw an advert for a role to lead the fundraising and marketing activity for Autism East Midlands. Being a parent of an autistic child myself, I was already aware of the vital work the charity does, and leapt at the chance to apply! Suffice to say, I’ve now been here almost a year and as news across the organisation crosses my desk on a daily basis I discover more about the impact our work has on the lives of autistic individuals.

Prior to commencing my role I had the privilege of visiting Sutherland House School in Nottingham. I’m not generally known for public displays of emotion – but I have to admit to shedding more than a single tear of joy on the tour as I learnt about the level of care given to the children who attend, ensuring that their personal developmental needs are met so they can flourish.

This theme persisted throughout my initial induction training. Every single worker at the charity goes through the same induction programme, whether they are office-based or involved in direct service delivery, ensuring that all understand current best practice in our field. Autistic individuals are at the centre of what we do, and their voice has led the organisation since we were founded in 1968. So many workers and volunteers here have personal experience of autism within their families, from support staff through to governance.

Over the following months I learnt about how our family support hubs help create peer support networks, helping parents as well as autistic children and their siblings understand that they are not alone in the challenges they face. I’ve met with service users at their homes and at the day services they attend, seeing how the activities help them to develop skills for independent living. I’ve heard stories of how our employment support and training teams have helped people achieve their dreams of securing the job roles they longed for. These are just a few examples of the work happening here.

At this point you’re probably asking yourself what the title of this blog has to do with anything…

 Over my first year in post it has been amazing to see so many dedicated individuals involved with supporting the organisation by fundraising. The groundswell of support we receive from businesses and our local community plays an incredibly significant role in ensuring that we can continue making an impact. On Silly Sock Day we had over 50 schools and 60 businesses around the region don silly socks  (sometimes very questionable!) to support our work. Over the year we’ve seen businesses and other organisations get involved in a number of ways, putting on their own events, or nominating us as their chosen charity. We’ve seen individuals and teams  undertake gruelling physical challenges or give from their own pockets.

The key here is impact.

Our fundraisers want to make a difference.

For me, a key memory from my first year in post is from our Christmas fair, when I had fun dancing in a huge blow up snowglobe with some of the children we support. It wasn’t the actual dancing (those who know me well will be aware that I usually never dance!) – it was knowing that my work, and the work of all the volunteers and partners who put considerable effort, time, and money into making a difference is making a difference, making our society more inclusive, and helping autistic individuals reach their potential.

For some, that impact can be seen in their smiles as they dance in a snowglobe at an event. For others, it could be that they cook their first meal independently, For some, it is securing and thriving in a new role. For some, it is passing their GCSEs when they couldn’t thrive in mainstream education.

The impact of your donations and effort isn’t felt on a single day, our supporters make a lasting difference to the independence, self esteem, and range of opportunities are service users are able to access.

To sum up – thank you for your support – it really does have an impact.

Stephen Knott is the Head of Fundraising and Communications at Autism East Midlands. He enjoys playing basketball, football, playing guitar, and eating curry. Get in touch if you would like to get involved supporting autistic individuals across the region, either individually or through your workplace, school, or community group.