HAVING celebrated the progress of hundreds of people on the autism spectrum, a charity pioneered in Northwich is now marking a milestone of its own.

For Cheshire Autism Practical Support (ChAPS), the future is bright as it reaches its tenth anniversary.

Set up by managing director Jo Garner a decade ago, ChAPS has supported people on the spectrum and their families, aiming to ‘support and educate parents to help your child be the best that they can be’.

As Jo explains, 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,” said Jo, who first started the charity to help her own son, who is on the autism spectrum.

“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.”

As with all charities, funding streams are essential and receiving a second National Lottery grant for a five-year sustainability project is a ‘game changer’ – securing the charity’s future without reliance on future grants.

Winsford Guardian:

AS part of its 10-year anniversary celebrations, the Cheshire Autism and Practical Support (ChAPS) charity is looking to shine a light on the county’s talent.

They are looking for entries for Autism’s Got Talent, ahead of a roadshow in May.

Entries should be submitted before Friday, February 28.

Managing director Jo Garner said: ““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 ten years.”

Anna added: “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 ten 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

Winsford Guardian:

ChAPS now offers accredited professional training with Open Awards – a mix of theory, practical advice and workshops.

Specialist-led ‘Learning 4 Life’ aimed at adults has enjoyed strong engagement in Northwich, and will soon be expanded to include Widnes and Chester.

Clinical commissioning group funding also allowing ChAPS to run further parent training workshops, while NHS England is supporting mindfulness courses and play therapy.

Services such as daytime activities continue, with plans to provide STEM opportunities and an ambition to fund a campsite for family excursions.

With a training room in Northwich and offices in Runcorn, the charity is keen to expand further and reach more children and families in need of support.

Jo said: “As the charity has grown and the staffing accordingly, we are now looking for premises for an Autism Centre.

“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.”

If you can help with any of the above, call 0344 850 8607 or email info@cheshireautism.org.uk