Autism Alert Card scheme expands to serve Thames Valley

After a successful decade in its home county, the Berkshire Autism Alert Card scheme is expanding to serve the Thames Valley region.

The Thames Valley Autism Alert Card is a joint initiative of Autism Berkshire, Thames Valley Police, local authorities and other autism support organisations in the region.

The card provides a quick and easy way for autistic people of all ages, and their parents or carers, to explain the condition quickly and easily to others, and boost their confidence when they are out and about. It aims to encourage anyone who is shown a card by someone who needs help or support to ‘Think Autism’.

The first phase of the expansion plan saw the launch of the new-look card in Buckinghamshire at an event held at Aylesbury College on Friday, September 10. It will be rolled out shortly to Oxfordshire and Milton Keynes.

Pictured at the event are, from left, Thames Valley Police autism project lead PC Lucie Gray, Buckinghamshire Council’s commissioning manager for young people Helen Backus and Autism Berkshire’s chief executive officer Jane Stanford-Beale, with the new Thames Valley Autism Alert Card

Jane said: “After successfully running the alert card scheme in Berkshire since 2010, we are delighted to now be able to improve it and expand coverage in conjunction with Thames Valley Police, Buckinghamshire Council and other local partners, including Talkback and GRASPS.”

The expansion follows a successful update to the Berkshire Autism Alert Card scheme earlier this year, which resulted in a 25% jump in the number of cards in use across the county, to almost 2,300. From February, current cardholders and new applicants have been offered the option to share some information with the police about how autism affects them.

Examples could include high levels of anxiety in stressful situations; sensory issues, such as reactions to loud noises or bright lights; and how best to help an autistic person who is having a meltdown or shutdown.

The aim is to help police officers understand how autism may affect an individual’s behaviour if they need assistance; they become a victim of crime; are a witness; or are taken into custody.

If someone opts to share information about their autism when applying for or renewing an alert card, the details will be held in a secure Thames Valley Police database, which can be accessed when officers are shown the card.

PC Lucie Gray said: “We recognise that some people who are autistic may have specific needs, which we may need to accommodate when they have a reason to contact us.

“An autistic person can choose to share their information about how they may act in a certain situation with police, which is a positive step towards ensuring we can have the most meaningful interaction. This helps to break down barriers to communication and assists us in being able to provide the best possible service.

“We are delighted to be working with Autism Berkshire and thank them for their support in helping us to meet the needs of the diverse communities we serve.”

Anita Cranmer, the Buckinghamshire Council Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “Buckinghamshire Council is pleased to be part of this initiative to support people with autism. It is of utmost importance that they are treated fairly and with respect in every aspect of their lives. It is not about treating them differently but simply about generating a better understanding of each individual and their needs.”

  • Click here for full details of the Thames Valley Autism Alert Card and how to apply.