Virtual reality experience helps Central Beds council staff learn about living with autism

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It was to mark Neurodiversity Celebration Week

To mark Neurodiversity Celebration Week, staff from Central Bedfordshire Council immersed themselves in a virtual reality experience to help understand the challenges that autistic people face on a daily basis.

The Autism Reality Experience, co-produced and created by Training 2 Care, visited the council headquarters at Priory House twice in March, and professionals who work with children and young people had the opportunity to take part in the experience and a training session afterwards. The experience allows people to gain a valuable insight into the daily challenges of autistic people when there are situations of sensory overload, in turn increasing their understanding.

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One member of staff who took part said: “It was amazing and will really help me to support families I work with going forward. It helped me gain an insight into how young people within our care see the world and how they may feel or react to certain situations.”

Council staff take part in the autism bus experienceCouncil staff take part in the autism bus experience
Council staff take part in the autism bus experience

Cllr Hayley Whitaker, executive member for families, education and children, said: “We are grateful to Public Health for providing funding to allow the Autism Reality Experience to visit Priory House so staff could take on the training. This kind of experience is vital - only by stepping into someone else’s shoes through experiences like this can we truly appreciate the challenges they face and offer meaningful support.”

Also during Neurodiversity Celebration Week, the council partnered with Jigsaw to give pupils at 10 schools an opportunity to attend training about ADHD delivered by the ADHD Foundation. Each school will now have the opportunity to go further to become accredited, cascading knowledge to all staff and work towards a pledge to become ADHD friendly schools.

The council’s Early Years SEND team also hosted a SEND networking event, attended by around 60 professionals from early years settings across Central Bedfordshire. They were able to listen to two keynote speakers from the Central Bedfordshire Educational Psychology team and The Shared Learning Trust, and take part in four interactive taster workshop sessions throughout the day on inclusion, autism and sensory processing, helping them feel more informed.

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