A NAILSEA man and his trusty dog have been raising awareness about autism by talking to community groups across North Somerset.
Simon Perks, aged 34, discovered he had autism five years ago and has had to make lots of changes to his lifestyle to accommodate his disability.
People suffering from autism often have difficulty communicating with others, making it hard for people to understand the condition.
However, Simon’s life was transformed when his wife suggested he get himself a dog and his 18-month-old labrador Molly has helped him to meet hundreds of new people and given him a huge confidence boost.
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Simon said: “One of the main problems people with autism face is communication difficulties. I struggle with social situations and I’m not very good at meeting people.
“Working from home meant I had become quite isolated so my wife suggested I get a canine companion. That’s how we came to have with Molly.
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“ She’s absolutely brilliant and loves to get out and about. She’s also incredibly sociable. I now have more conversations with people in a day than I used to have in a week.”
Simon’s new found confidence enabled him to sign up as one of the first recruits to The National Autistic Society (NAS) volunteer speaker programme and Simon now goes round to groups and organisations to talk about autism and the work of the NAS.
He said: “I enjoy speaking to groups, am a reasonably competent and entertaining speaker, and wanted the opportunity to tell more people about autism and how it affects people like me.
“Most of all, I wanted people to understand that autism isn’t wrong, it’s just different.”
Simon’s first speaking assignment was with the Yatton and District Rotary Club and he has since spoken with a number of other groups in Nailsea and the surrounding area, including the Morning Break group at Holy Trinity Church and the Chatterbox group at Southfield Church.
He hopes to make contact with further groups in the coming months, so that he can tell even more people about autism, the NAS and introduce them to Molly.
For more information about the NAS volunteer speaker programme, or to book a talk with Simon, call 07554 439713 or email firstname.lastname@example.org