World Autism Month

What is World Autism Awareness Month?

Celebrated in April each year, this month aims to provide an insight into autism and how it affects not only those living with it, but the people around them too.

Organised by the National Autistic Society, the month runs alongside World Autism Awareness Week (29 March – 4 April) and World Autism Awareness Day (2 April).

What is autism?

Autism is a developmental disorder which impacts a person’s ability to interact and communicate. Symptoms of autism often appear in early childhood and are identified when children don’t reach developmental milestones at the same time as their peers.

There are 700,000 people on the autism spectrum in the UK, which is more than 1 in 100. When you also include their families, autism is a part of daily life for 2.8 million people across the country.

Having autism affects everyday life for individuals and it’s important that we understand some of the common symptoms:

Although autism does not present itself the same way in every person, many austistic people have common strengths. These include:

Insight on autism

We caught up with a student studying hospitality at Harrogate College to hear their perspective on living with autism.

What does having autism mean to you?

Rebecca*: “My autism is my superpower – it’s something that makes me who I am.”

Are there some tasks you find more difficult?

“I’ve always struggled to make friends and maintain friendships. This is because it’s challenging for me to understand a person’s body language, facial expressions and emotions.”

What are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?

“Going out for the first time after lockdown to go shopping with my mum was really scary and anxiety-provoking. However, I overcame this fear by wearing a hidden disability lanyard which lets people know that I might require some help or support if I have a meltdown, which can happen when I feel overwhelmed.”

What support do you get to help with your autism?

“My therapist helps me work through my feelings; allowing me to understand why I might find things more challenging than other people.

“I’ve also got a therapy cat, who has helped me build up my self-esteem and my self-worth over the past few years. Cats are great for helping young people with autism, as they relieve anxiety and stress.”

What can others do to support you?

“It usually depends on the situation. Sometimes, I like sorting out the problem myself without getting someone else involved. However, it’s good to occasionally have support from an adult.”

What do you enjoy most about your course?

“The supportive network of my tutors and teaching assistant, as they all want me to achieve my best.”

What is your experience at  Harrogate College like?

“My college experience has been so much better than school. I used to get a lot of anxiety about school as I wasn’t given enough support, however the staff always go the extra mile to help me at college.”

How does Harrogate College help with your autism?

“I have a teaching assistant who is really understanding and helpful. During lockdown, they kept in touch with me and supported me in my journey to return to college. They constantly reassured me that college was safe with the new Covid-19 guidelines and we worked together to make sure I felt settled again.”

What are your ambitions for the future?

“My ambition is to open my own cafe, using the skills I’ve learnt from college and from my current job working as a kitchen assistant and barista.”

Support services

If you’d like to get support, there are many local services available.

National Autistic Society – Harrogate and District Branch

Offers support to families in Harrogate, Richmondshire and Craven who have a child or member with autism.

Harrogate Autism Parent Support

A group where parents and carers of children on the autistic spectrum can meet and chat.

Autism Angels

North Yorkshire-based charity which supports families who have a member with autism.

*This is not the student’s real name as they wished to remain anonymous.

Covid-19 safety measures at college

We’ve made our college campuses as safe as possible since we reopened to many of our students. Thanks to the success of the NHS vaccine programme rollout and lockdown measures so far, the Government has relaxed some Covid-19 restrictions as of 17 May. You can find our latest campus rules and safety measures below.

Face coverings

You may have seen in the news that face coverings are no longer required in the classroom or communal areas, however, the Department for Education has said that face coverings should be used in response to localised outbreaks or new variants of the virus. Given the infection rates in Yorkshire are currently twice as high as the national average, we are taking a cautious approach to face coverings.

Face coverings must be worn at all times where social distancing cannot be maintained. This includes corridors, communal spaces and classrooms. 

We will review our face covering position regularly and if local infection rates reduce we will update our approach.

Other safety measures on campus

Studying in college is important for the quality of our students’ learning and wellbeing. We will continue to take safety measures seriously to keep our students and staff safe. 

This includes:

If you haven’t already, please speak to your teacher before you return to college. 

We know you may have concerns about being at college during the pandemic, but the safety measures we’ve had in place have proved a real success at controlling the spread of Covid-19. We want to reassure you that we are teaching in a Covid-19 safe environment and we will continue to implement extensive measures to ensure student and staff safety. The safety of students and staff is at the forefront of all our plans for on-site learning.

Testing

To keep everyone even safer on campus, it is expected that all students who attend campus will take a Covid-19 test twice weekly. You can ask for Covid-19 tests at your local pharmacy or you can order these via the Gov.uk website.

Our campuses have had successful safety measures in place and these tests are an additional precaution. Testing is really important because Covid-19 cases can show no symptoms, allowing it to spread without the host realising.

This process may be different if you are an apprentice, higher education or adult learner, so please speak with your teacher to confirm your approach to testing.

For any students who are self-isolating, remote education will continue. If you are a student and have any questions, please speak with your teacher .

How to take a test

Taking a test is quick and easy. Watch this video from Public Health England to see how it’s done. You can also read the guides below.

How to take your tests (with a helper)

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1WGuBzkndBqbjsX4IxYDO_gk-bYsXKt30/view?usp=sharing

How to do a rapid Covid-19 self-test

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1pelamroxJaBwcuSJrRI9lFHMuaw0ZQ0b/view?usp=sharing

Vaccine information

If you’re offered the vaccine, please take this opportunity as it is proving effective against Covid-19. You can find more information about the vaccine here.

A FRESH CANVAS FOR ARTIST PAMELA

Art has been a source of inspiration and support throughout Pamela Craven-Davies’ life.

Painting has helped the 51 year old through some incredibly tough times – and is now, as she approaches the completion of her Creative Practice MA at Harrogate College, offering her ‘a new beginning’.

Pamela loved art from a tender age and it threw her a lifeline when she was struggling, due to what was later found to be dyslexia.

She tasted early success at the age of 12 when she won a watercolour painting competition and, despite some discouraging career advice, she persevered and pursued art as a mature student, first at A level and then at university.

In her thirties and with a young family, she then began doing freelance stained glass work and creative activities in schools, colleges and churches in the Harrogate area.

That wasn’t to last, however, as tragedy struck when Pamela lost her second child, who had been born with a brain aneurysm, at the age of two. It was an event that completely changed her life and saw her focus her efforts on the care of her other two children for the next 17 years.

Then, as time passed and her children became more independent, she realised it was time to give her love of art another chance – and she enquired about Harrogate College’s MA.

FILLING THE VOID

“When my son left for university I was overwhelmed with a new grief – and a continuing grief from losing my second child.

“It was at that point I knew it was time to find a way to fill that void and deal with my grief.

“I feel very lucky to have met my tutor, Annabel Smith, and to have had a chat with her about the MA Creative Practice and my situation.

LOCKDOWN CREATIVITY

“For me lockdown has had more benefits than negatives because of my MA. My focus has been to create something every day whilst at home.

“Next to my teenage, almost grown-up children – when they are at home – painting is my safest and most precious place.

“I feel like I have had extra time with my children during lockdown and an opportunity to push everyone around me to accept that I am an artist: and this MA has inspired me to find out about other artists and where I stand in the mix.”

EXHIBITION SUCCESS

As part of her course Pamela exhibited her work, alongside her fellow MA students, for the first time last December – and received a brilliant response.

“I had never exhibited before and I was very nervous and apprehensive. 

“I had not done as much work as I would have liked but I still managed to put on a good display and I sold five artworks. 

“That gave me some confidence and also gave other people confidence in me. I have had offers from Weetons Food Hall, in Harrogate, to display my work during June and July and also at the Wandahome stand at The Great Yorkshire Show. And I am also exhibiting with fellow students at Henshaws Arts and Crafts Centre in Knaresborough: all running simultaneously for my final module. 

“This is now the position I am in, having confidence in myself, finalising and committing to my exhibitions and producing the work I want to show to demonstrate the type of artist I am and how I see things.

“I think this is another beginning. I am aware that life has its twists and turns and it is a journey; I am taking one day at a time.”

LIFELONG LEARNING

To celebrate adult learning, Leeds City College is participating in the Festival of Learning; a year-long recognition of mature learners and their achievements.

Pamela said: “I don’t know what I would have done without adult learning. It has seen me through judgements, disbelief, grief, divorce and voids in my life – and set me on a career path of my choice.

“I have received positive feedback and gained confidence each time I have entered adult learning. I have also taken courses in counselling and teaching at Harrogate College, made friends and found the college to be easily accessible.

“I would urge anyone to take up adult learning no matter what their age or interest. I can see myself doing another degree if I had the opportunity – learning is just amazing and addictive and takes your mind off the problems of life.”

Discover more about our adult offering here.

A selection of Pamela’s work, meanwhile, can be viewed at pamelascreativepractice.com.

Cutting Edge Creativity from Adult Learner

Douglas Thompson was just three years old when he learned his first magic trick: how to create snowflakes.

That early introduction to the craft of paper cutting – courtesy of a lesson from his aunt when she was trying to keep him occupied – set him on a lifelong exploration of art and creativity.

The 45 year old now uses his creativity every day in his job as a facilitator, mentor and instructor at Henshaws Arts and Crafts Centre, Knaresborough.

And Douglas, who specialises in paper cutting and curating, is currently experiencing a fresh creative boost thanks to his studies for an MA in Creative Practice at Harrogate College.

The course has already inspired him to design a new map for Henshaws and to:

WORK BENEFITS

“I love leading workshops at Henshaws Arts and Crafts Centre where I use my expertise in both drama and fine art to increase confidence, communication skills and coordination.

“Studying an MA in Creative Practice at Harrogate College has been instrumental in increasing the arts centre’s portfolio and it has encouraged our other workshop leaders to consider second degrees and further study.

“I have loved this MA and it has made so much sense for me for it to have been embedded in this community. Knaresborough and Harrogate are very creative towns; I feel far more connected now professionally to the local creative network and fully able to talk about my work and its value to the local community.”

CUTTING A PATH

“My earliest memory was cutting snowflakes with my aunt when I was three. It was the only way she could get me to sit still.

“My paper-cut art took off in 2011 when I used the technique to design installations for musician Omar Soulyman and for a local gallery in Bradford. I had forgotten how much I had loved working with paper as a child and from that point on it became one of my primary modes of creative expression. 

“I was a daydreamer as a child and art connected my dreams to the world and people around me. Art stopped me, in my youth, from dropping out of the education system. It has provided a way for me to make a living and given me a life with meaning that provides a lot of satisfaction.”

Fawn Forlorn by Douglas Thompson
Fawn Forlorn by Douglas Thompson

PANDEMIC PROBLEMS – AND OPPORTUNITIES

“The lack of access to practical facilities at the college during lockdown was particularly challenging but we were supported through tutorials. Our academic staff were able to act quickly in setting up online sessions.

“The college have also acknowledged the studio time that has been lost and provided extensions, with extended access to facilities. I think larger institutions may not have been able to accommodate our various needs as quickly.

“In response to social distancing, I and two other MA students created our own website, northartcraft.com, to provide a platform to share and sell our artwork on as well as the work of other artists in our network.

“This has allowed us to collaborate with artists across the country and help us to develop creatively during a challenging time. A masters encourages this type of independent entrepreneurship backed with academic rigour.”

CREATIVE CALENDAR

“I’m producing a group show from July 8 – July 12, hosted at Henshaws; I have my work on sale at Northernlines Art on Knaresborough station platform; I am managing a makers market with my colleagues from northartcraft.com in September; and I have a number of commissions supporting Harrogate Theatre and its projects this year.

“None of this would be taking place without the MA.”

LEARNING FOR ALL AGES

Leeds City College is participating in the Festival of Learning, a year-long recognition of mature students and their achievements, to celebrate adult learning.

Douglas, whose first degree was a BA in theatre which he did more than 20 years ago, would definitely encourage others to take up education at whatever stage of life they are at.

“I rate my learning experience very highly. It was important to me to be able to study locally in a way that was relevant and connected to my community.

“Study is as much about how you relate to the subject as it is about the institution so don’t think you have to study at the most renowned academy to get the most out of your chosen course.

“It’s never too late or too early to study either. We are always learning, that’s what keeps us bright and vital and human

“It doesn’t matter what age you are, it doesn’t matter if you haven’t studied for years, it doesn’t matter if you’ve failed in the past. What matters is that you are interested, that you enjoy the subject and that it has meaning to you.”

Discover more about our adult offering here.

A Chance to Meet an Employer

Holly Hansen-Maughan – Performance and Projects Co-ordinator at Harrogate College

Yorkshire businesses are being urged to join a pioneering project that is empowering students and jobseekers.

Harrogate College started Meet an Employer last year as a way of keeping businesses connected with potential new employees and supporting the local community during the coronavirus pandemic.

The scheme – a partnership venture with the Department for Work and Pensions – is the brainchild of the college’s Performance and Projects Coordinator, Holly Hansen-Maughan. Holly has organised and hosted a series of webinars to let employers from different sectors explain their work and field questions from jobseekers and students.

A total of ten events have now been held and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive: so Holly is seeking more businesses to sign up for a second series of webinars that will begin later this year.

A RESPONSE TO LOCKDOWN

She said: “I started the Meet an Employer webinars last September as a response to lockdown and there being less opportunities for people to engage.

“They can be viewed by students from across Luminate Education Group – which includes Harrogate College, Leeds City College and Keighley College – as well as jobseekers in Harrogate and York; I work with the DWP to advertise the webinars to their clients.

“We have had a range of different employers including people from healthcare, construction, retail, energy, and sales – and would now like to ask businesses to come forward to be involved the next series.”

A CHANCE TO GIVE BACK – AND RECRUIT

Some of the area’s top businesses took part in this round of talks, and they all found the experience rewarding.

Holly said: “There’s been a lot of positive feedback from the employers who have been involved and from those attending. This has been recognised as a great opportunity by the businesses to showcase their work, give back to the community, advertise vacancies and give a sense of what the jobs entail.

“And for the students and jobseekers it has been a chance to find out more about a particular sector or role, put questions directly to the employers and hear about local opportunities.

“As a result there have been job offers and one-to-one follow-on conversations after the webinars.”

SERVING THE COMMUNITY

Holly is now keen to keep the momentum going: “This project was created as a vital tool to boost opportunities and mobility, and it allows the college to serve its community – which is its purpose.

“It is important that these type of opportunities are being provided not only for students but for people across our district.

“I began this as a response to lockdown but it has actually had a really positive effect as it has allowed more people to benefit.”

TAKING PART

She added: “Hosting the series has been really interesting, and I have learnt a lot.

“The breadth of businesses that have been involved already has been incredible and I would encourage others to get in touch.”

Any employer interested in signing up for the next series of webinars is asked to contact Holly by sending an e-mail to Holly.Hansen-Maughan@harrogate.ac.uk.

Find out more about Harrogate College and what it offers here.

Helping Young Carers Find Their Voice

Being a carer is one of the most important roles we will ever take on in life – and also one of the most challenging.

That is particularly true for members of the country’s growing army of young carers who have to juggle looking after a loved one with their education.

Keen to offer some support to local carers, Harrogate College has been running a series of free performing arts workshops designed to boost their confidence.

Performing Arts tutor Robin Burch has just completed four sessions with five teenagers which ended with them each giving short performances to the group.

Teaching Confidence

Robin, who was assisted by Student Relations Officer Megan Hawkswell and one of his students, Katie Romilly, said: “Teaching confidence is a challenging task.

“You have a series of exercises and activities to develop trust, communication and sharing, but it is a continual process of adaptation all the time, to each activity.

“The tutor has to develop the relationship with each individual student and demonstrate what confidence looks like themselves.

“Sensitivity to each student’s needs is especially important when we share feedback.”

The activities were designed to build trust and confidence and get the participants comfortable with communicating with each other.

Megan said: “The young carers particularly enjoyed the excuse to do some singing and shouting while working on voice projection.

“During the workshop series they got noticeably more confident and by the end were confidently speaking in front of the group.”

A Chance to Help

Harrogate College’s Performance and Projects Coordinator, Holly Hansen-Maughan, added: “This was a perfect example of the college serving its community.

“We appreciate our ability to help people.”

Unseen Sacrifices

There are currently an estimated 800,000 carers aged between five and 17 in the UK. Each is involved in regularly caring for a family member or friend by taking on all kinds of extra responsibilities including cooking, cleaning, shopping and collecting prescriptions.

The pressure on them is often immense and one in three have a mental health issue – while 27 per cent of those aged between 11 and 15 are missing school.

The Children’s Society, on the Facts About Young Carers section of its website, says: “Having to care for someone can often mean missing school or having to bail on friends.

“It can put their childhood on the back burner. Many young carers, and the people around them, don’t even realise they’re carers.”

Further Support

This year’s Carers Week, an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring and the daily challenges unpaid cares face, takes place from Monday, June 7 to Sunday, June 13.

Carers Leeds will be holding a number of events during the week.

Carers Week

Carers help to hold our communities and country together – but the vital work they do often goes unseen.

That is something this year’s Carers Week, which runs from 7 June to 13 June, is determined to change.

The awareness raising campaign celebrates the unpaid work of millions of people who support relatives or friends who are growing older or who have a disability or a mental or physical illness.

WHAT IS A CARER?

Carers Week has provided its own definition and it is deliberately lengthy – to reflect the breadth of activities carers are involved in.

The campaign defines a carer as someone who “cares (unpaid) for family or friends who have a disability, illness or who need support in later life: Washing them. And their laundry. And their dishes. Keeping appointments. And records. And tempers.

“Giving medicine. And time. And hugs. Filling forms. And fridges. And silences. Dealing with doctors. And nurses. And pharmacists. And social workers. And benefits agencies. And care workers. And a lack of sleep.”

 Carers UK estimates that there are about 6.5 million carers, of all ages, in the UK – though in 2020 that figure more than doubled, to 13.6 million, because of the pandemic.

Many look after more than one person and provide more than 50 hours of caring each week.

VISIBLE AND VALUED

This year’s theme is Making Caring Visible and Valued, which aims to make more people recognise the enormous contribution made by carers and ensure they get the practical, financial and emotional support they need.

 Carers UK is teaming up with Age UK, Carers Trust, Motor Neurone Disease Association, Oxfam GB and Rethink Mental Illness for Carers Week 2021.

The six charities are calling on individuals, services and organisations across the country to get involved.

ADD YOUR VOICE

Anyone can leave a message of support on the Carers Week website’s Add Your Voice wall or Pledge Your Support section.

EVENTS

Hundreds of different activities have been organised across the country. A full guide – with interactive map – can be found on the campaign’s website where there are also tips on how to stage your own, virtual events for carers.

 Locally, two virtual Lunch and Learn workshops are being held by Carers Leeds. For more details and to book a place follow these links:

COLLEGE SUPPORT

Harrogate College Principal Danny Wild said: “Carers Week and the support it offers to carers, by highlighting their invaluable but often unseen work, is really important to us as a college as it connects with our own values of nurturing and inclusiveness.”

A COLOSSAL CONTRIBUTION DURING COVID

Speaking on behalf of the Carers Week charities, Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said: “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic unpaid carers have played an essential role supporting older, disabled and seriously ill relatives and friends, doing so most of the year on their own behind closed doors.

“They have forgone breaks from caring and much of the support they would normally have relied on.

“As restrictions ease it is vital that we acknowledge the enormous contribution that unpaid carers continue to make day in day out. I am delighted that many individuals and organisations are getting involved with virtual activities, helping carers to connect to others and access advice and information locally.

“Looking after someone can be a hugely rewarding experience, but it sometimes comes with difficulties, including getting the right support. This Carers Week I hope all parts of the community – family and friends, employers, businesses, schools, health and care services – do their bit to make caring visible and show it is valued.”

SUPPORT

Support and advice for local carers is provided by Carers’ Resource – visit here for more details or call the Harrogate office on (01423) 500555.

Refugee Week

Refugee Week is a UK festival that celebrates the resilience and contributions of refugees and people seeking sanctuary. It is a week-long celebration which centers around World Refugee Day on 20 June. 

Refugee Week was established in 1988 to help challenge the xenophobia and hostility refugees faced from society and the media. It is now a national initiative that works towards combating the negative stigma, educating communities about the valuable contributions of refugees and giving them a safe place to live. 

The annual celebration acts as a powerful platform for those to share their experiences and the challenges they face when seeking asylum. The week aims to create a safe place where communities can develop a better understanding of the issues that refugees face. It also offers an opportunity for people to be seen, listened to, and valued in their community.

Inclusivity is at the heart of the event, accompanied by activities and exhibitions which strive to bring everyone together to raise awareness of the history and challenges that refugees can face in their everyday lives. 

We Cannot Walk Alone

This year, the theme for Refugee Week is ‘We Cannot Walk Alone’. 

This theme stems from a speech delivered by Martin Luther King during the American Civil Rights Movement. However, the words still resonate with us today and relate to all aspects of our lives. 

The theme encourages us to walk side-by-side with each other by reaching out to someone new. It inspires us to connect with new people and learn something valuable from each other. 

Why not take part in Refugee Week Simple Acts inspired by this year’s theme? These are simple acts that we can incorporate into our everyday life to stand with refugees and make new, valuable connections. 

Events

Here are some ways you can get involved.

Whose Land? By Meduula

Meduulla, a Zimbabwean-born artist, poet and rapper uses her voice to raise awareness of the consequences of conflict with migration. This is an online event held on the 14 June. 

Find out more information here.

Guardian at 200: Humanitarian issues and the power of the media

The John Rylands Research Institute and Library holds the entire archive of the Manchester Guardian. This panel of special guests and experts will discuss items from the archive and how it could impact our future.

Home, Street, City: Finding Sanctuary in Wakefield

From 26 May to 19 June, this exhibition celebrates artwork made by people in Wakefield during the pandemic, exploring experiences and memories of their homes.

College activities

At Harrogate College, we will also be taking part in Refugee Week. We are committed to being inclusive and nurturing to everyone. We have been working with Harrogate District of Sanctuary to look out how we can improve to be even more welcoming to refugees.

Across the college there will be a creative competition around the themes of sanctuary in which students can participate in. Take a look at the competition poster for more information.
If you want any further information, please contact Megan Hawkswell.

We will be displaying these entries in St Peter’s Church in Harrogate during the week.

We will also be sharing stories from our students who have had experience being asylum seekers and refugees. If you’d like to share your story – please fill in this form https://forms.gle/ADRa7T2H6Am1TtMW7.

We will only share what you agree to being shared – it can be confidential and as much or as little as you like.

Harrogate Support Services 

If you’d like to get support, there are many local services available. 

St Mark’s

St Mark’s Church welcomes refugees to Harrogate and collects donations to send to Syria. 

International Asexuality Day

On 6 April, people across the world will be raising awareness for International Asexuality Day

This day aims to celebrate the full asexual spectrum, focusing on four key themes: advocacy, celebration, education and solidarity. 

What is asexuality?

Asexuality is a spectrum of identities related to an individual not experiencing sexual attraction. It is paired with aromanticism, which refers to people who do not experience romantic attraction. 

These are collectively known as A-spec identities, which encompasses a number of different experiences within these categories. 

Asexual people are part of the LGBTQ+ umberella, because they do not experience attraction to another gender.

Many asexual people have found it helpful to describe their identity in more detail, so there are many sub-identities to be aware of:

Why do we have a day dedicated to asexuality?

Asexuality is relatively unfamiliar to many people, so today aims to raise awareness for asexual and aromantic people. 

The day also hopes to tackle discrimination against asexual people, including a range of prejudices, such as negative attitudes, behaviours and feelings toward people who identify as part of the asexual spectrum. This may look like the belief that aromantic and asexual people:

How can we support A-spec people?

Educating yourself about asexuality is a good place to start. Take a look at some key resources, such as this Shades of Noir video and Stonewall’s six ways to be an ally to asexual people.

Validating the feelings that A-spec people have is a great way to show your support. Society tells these people that they’re broken, which can be a really difficult experience. One way to help is by not assuming that everyone has or wants a partner.

If you think you might identify as asexual, there are plently of resources to help you explore this. This Reddit thread looks at some key asexual FAQs.

Support services

MESMAC

Harrogate-based group which offers support and advice to young LGBTQ+ people (aged 13-25). 

LGBTQ+ Harrogate Youth Group

A group to offer support and advice to young LGBTQ+ people. This organisation offers a safe place to meet as well as useful information sessions.

Galop

A UK-based charity providing advice, support, research and lobbying around the issues of LGBTQ+ policing.

The Asexual Visibility and Education Network

The world’s largest online asexual community.