FACT has been organized by families and friends who recognize what the benefits of additional care and therapy can bring when applied in conjunction with the usual day to day techniques from their respective schools. All autistic children require different levels of therapy and care. We believe our charity is unique because it concentrates on providing help specifically for our children on a one to one basis. Evidence suggests that applying one to one techniques can dramatically improve communication skills between families.   

Our ultimate aim is for everyone with autistic children to be able to communicate on a much higher level and enjoy the special rewards this brings, in particular the understanding of relationships that we take for granted everyday.

This is why we need your help. We need to raise as much as we possibly can to give our children a brighter future. Thanks.

Why did you start FACT?

Children with autism view the world in a different way to you and me. They see a mass of people, places and events that they can struggle to make sense of. The confusion and distress that results can be a challenge for families to manage. FACT stands for Families of Autistic Children Together. As a charity it does exactly what its name suggests; brings the families of autistic children together with professionals to help them live life to the full.
Autistic children need special care, attention and therapy on a daily basis to help them cope with many social situations.
FACT champions one to one techniques that have a positive impact on the children’s wellbeing. Today we speak with Dallas Whittle about his work with FACT, and about the joys and challenges of caring for his autistic son Louis.

Tell us about your role in FACT, when did it start and what do you do?

We first started the group with family and friends in December 2010, and became a registered charity in December 2012. Most autistic children can’t go to everyday activities due to their sensory difficulties. Noise, light and busy places can be very stressful and can cause challenging behaviour.
We set up a play session at Slide and Seek in Hyde twice a month. We also have a Saturday club which is run to give families respite. Both are supported by fully trained CRB checked staff and volunteers. Parents
can leave their child knowing they are supervised in a safe, quiet and chilled out environment.
My role is as Chairperson. I make sure the committee functions properly and the charity is managed effectively. I provide support and supervision of staff and volunteers. I also represent the charity as it’s figurehead at functions and events.

What is meant by Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism affects each person in a different way. Its symptoms can range from very mild to severe. The range of symptoms is laid out on a scale of severity and age of onset. This scale is called the ‘spectrum’.
Some ASDs share the same or similar symptoms such as problems with social interaction; people with similar levels of difficulty would potentially be on the same place on the spectrum.

How might a parent spot if their child is autistic?

There are lots of different signs that might indicate some level of autism. Most notable is not reaching the usual milestones, for example, speech may be delayed, or they may choose to communicate non-verbally for longer. They may not use pointing as a means of communication.
Other signs might be spinning in circles, rocking, flapping hands or doing unusually repetitive actions. Autistic children may take an obsessive interest in something, or enjoy putting things in order, for example repeatedly lining chairs up.
Autistic children can sometimes appear to be deaf or unresponsive to your voice.
They may avoid eye contact. They may choose to disconnect themselves from social interactions and may remove themselves from busy places.

What were your initial feelings when you found out Louis had autism?

We found out when Louis was 3 years old.
We were given a diagnosis and sent home with some leaflets. For me it didn’t really sink in at the time, I just thought he could be cured. I didn’t really understand autism or how it would affect our whole family.
Hopefully things have changed a bit now.
People are more aware of the condition and can appreciate what it means for your child.
In fact, part of FACT’s work is to raise awareness of it.

Louis is now 16 years old. Knowing what you know now, were these feelings right?

My feelings have changed considerably. I now realise it’s not as straight forward as getting a “cure” for my Son.
The help isn’t always there when you need it. It is a difficult time for families. That’s why we set the charity up, to help families dealing with the same problems as us.
With the right support and a lot of hard work your child can improve and reach his or her full potential.

What are the high and low points of a typical week?

The highs are definitely when Louis comes running into the bedroom in the morning, bouncing on the bed with a cheeky smile and saying “Daddy!”. His laugh is infectious and getting his full attention means so
It’s just the little things that mean the most.
Louis has severe autism and sensory processing difficulties, so any progress is a big step for him. He recently started to use an iPad to play games, which he has never done before. Who would have thought my
Son could do that? Louis has little speech so the iPad is a brilliant communication tool too.
The lows are definitely the challenging behaviour. Loud noises, lights and busy places are very stressful for him to cope with. His behaviour can be unpredictable, one second he’s happy and the next very annoyed. Every day events can be a problem with this unusual behaviour. You do get looks when you when out shopping.
Social events such as family parties and meeting friends can be difficult, so it’s quite isolating at times.

What would you advise other families to do if they’re feeling stressed out in their caring role?

Join a support group such as FACT or any other group in your area. You meet people in the same situation with good ideas and advice. It’s these groups that you learn most from, and you soon realise you’re not on your own dealing with autism. If you feel you need a break from your caring role, visit your integrated services. They can assess your needs and provide you with direct payments to help with respite. The Carers
Centre can also advise you what help is out there both for you and the person you care for.

You’ve recently started running speech, language and signing sessions. What is the importance of communication between someone with autism and their Carers?

It’s an essential part of life. Without communication you have nothing. Imagine your child is trying to tell you something and you do not understand. This is where the challenging behaviour starts, because
they are frustrated and annoyed that you don’t know what they want.

You do a lot of fundraising, what is your next event and how can people get involved?

We have a full schedule of events coming up.
• The mums at FACT are doing a 10K Run
• We have dads and mums taking part in The Manchester to Blackpool bike ride
• We have a great Golf Day usually each August and many other fund raising activities.

You seem to have a busy social calendar at FACT. What can parents expect if they become members?

We like people to get involved and make a real difference to their family life. We try to make it as enjoyable as we can. It’s a family charity so we do things for the whole family; it’s not just about the kids.
We’ve done pamper nights for the mums, and a Christmas breakfast for the dads for example.
Every year we have a fantastic Gala Summer Ball. It’s a chance for the ladies to get dressed up, and the gents to put a dinner suit on.
We have a great dinner, live entertainment and we all kick back and enjoy ourselves.
As with all our fundraising activities we try to make it fun and hope people will want to do it all over again.

If anyone would like to sponsor or take part in any of these events please visit FACT’s Facebook page Families of Autistic Children Together, twitter @Dallas Whittle1, email info@factautistism.org.uk, or visit the website at www.factautistim.org.uk.

Meet The Team

Tracy Whittle
Charity Officer

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