A fundraising campaign has been launched by an awareness group to educate people about autism spectrum disorders.
Angus Autism Awareness Team is a pupil-led group, set up with an aim to provide staff workshops and pupil assemblies to help further awareness.
They recently launched a Crowdfunder campaign to raise £800 to purchase items using virtual reality technology to help people understand autism spectrum disorders.
Chairman Davie McKinnon said: “The group started unofficially about a year-and-a-half ago with just myself designing some workshops for staff. Then six or seven months ago the idea came up to start a team to cover the whole of Angus.”
The team, which also includes Alex Smith, Lennon Watson and Chris Glen, use the workshops to help participants develop a better understanding of autism spectrum disorders, learn about services available to make participant’s roles easier, and how best to support someone on the spectrum.
Those who attended a workshop said it “created the right balance of meaningful factual information” with a range of experiences, and made them think about how they engage and work with young people with autism. Participants also noted the workshop brought a “greater awareness of the environment (in all areas school, shopping centre, streets, parties etc) and how this affects people with this condition”.
The group, who meet at Brechin Community Campus but want to help raise awareness across all of Angus, came up with concept of using virtual reality technology to help improve the workshop for participants.
Davie continued: “The virtual reality kit will take us from saying what life can be like with autism to showing people, and letting them step into the shoes of those with autism.”
The technology includes a Daydream View Virtual Reality Headset and Pixel Smartphone and case. Davie said: “The phone was the best fit for it as it’s the first smartphone made specifically for the virtual reality headset.”
Using these items, along with an app from the National Autistic Society, the group can put the user in the place of an autistic person.
Davie added: “The funding would enable us to buy one kit, but we are looking to the future to get more funds and purchase more kits.
“Once we have one kit we will be able to provide workshops straight away.”
The app to be used by the team has been created by the National Autism Society. ‘Too Much Information’ is a 360 degree virtual reality version of the Society’s film TMI, which was created to help people feel what it might be like to get too much information.
The Society’s website states: “Our Too Much Information film has helped 56 million people gain a deeper understanding of autism. That, sometimes, autistic people become overloaded by everything around them which can make the outside world feel like a terrifying place. And for their families, all the looks, judgements and tuts make it feel like a lonely and isolated place.
“But now, with state-of-the-art technology, we’re helping people to get an even more immersive experience.
“Based on real experiences in consultation with autistic people, we’ve created a virtual reality film to give a flavour of how overwhelming an everyday setting like a shopping centre can be to an autistic person experiencing too much information. Every single sight, every single sound, every single stare.
“The cutting edge film is a powerful tool to help people truly understand autism.”
The fundraising campaign for Angus Autism Awareness Team coincides with World Autism Awareness Week, which runs from March 27 to April 2.
The campaign has until April 27 to reach its target to allow it to be funded. At the time of going to press, the campaign had received £50 from four supporters. To donate to the Crowdfunder campaign, visit http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/angus-autism-awareness-team.
For more about the Angus Autism Awareness Team, visit their website at https://angusautismawarene.wixsite.com/aaat