AIREDALE and Wharfedale Autism Resource (AWARE) is celebrating after being awarded £420,000 in National Lottery funding to support its work with families affected by autism.

The group will use the money to run more activities for local children and young people and to provide further support sessions for their parents.

AWARE has been supporting families since 1999 and set up by a group of parent carers of children with autism, supported by Airedale Child Development Centre, in 1999. These original members found there was little support for families affected by autism and began meeting up monthly for a parent support group meeting and also ran a Friday evening youth club for families.

Twenty two years on, the group currently runs weekly youth clubs, monthly Saturday clubs and holiday play scheme sessions - all currently in Addingham due to COVID-restrictions - where the children and young people can make friends while learning new skills and having fun. The group may have evolved over the last two decades, but it remains, at heart, a parent-to-parent support group, run by, for and with parents of children and young people with autism. The group’s membership now includes over 500 families with 730 children and more than 100 professionals and support groups, with a wealth of autism-related knowledge and experience.

Parent carers’ involvement in AWARE provides them with a support network through greater access to autism-related information and training, enabling them to better understand and care for their children and young people.

A spokesperson said: “The new funding from The National Lottery Community Fund will see these sessions continue and also hopefully run in other locations in Bradford when restrictions are lifted. We will also be able to run more cookery clubs (always a favourite!), children’s and family residentials, and continue to provide parent support. The parent groups and training help parents to build relationships with others experiencing the same challenges and hopefully enable them to develop their own support network.”

Geoff Winnard, Chairman of AWARE, added: “We’re delighted that The National Lottery Community Fund has recognised our work in this way. Now, thanks to National Lottery players, we will be able to continue to develop the support we offer to families affected by autism. This is important because it helps both the children and the parents to build relationships with others facing similar challenges and to create their own supportive circles of friends and peers.”

One AWARE member added: “Being a member has given me access to a wealth of information and advice from people who are going through the same things as me.”