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Autistic woman's postcards used to help others understand condition

Dan Redfearn, Helen Larder and her daughter Hayden hope the postcards will give new insight into autism. Photo: Photo: University of Salford

The family of a autistic woman have helped her to create a set of postcards to use as a 'training pack' so families and medical professionals can better understand the condition.

Hayden Larder, who was diagnosed with autism at 16, was encouraged by her mother, Helen, to draw and tell stories about her feelings when she was growing up.

The cartoon characters Hayden drew and messages describing her complicated emotions have been incorporated into a set of postcards.

The drawings include scenes such as a young person telling an adult that they cannot cope with friends coming to visit and thought bubbles explaining that things are 'too loud, too bright, too confusing'.

One of Hayden's drawings Credit: Photo: University of Salford

Helen showed the cards to medical and educational professionals to give them a new insight into what Hayden, who is now 25, was going through.

Hayden and her mother worked closely with Dan Redfearn, lecturer in nursing and social work at Salford University, to create the pack.

A lot of the problems that Hayden experienced growing up – as is often the case with people who have autism – were simply misunderstandings.

Helping people understand that difference is really important, and was at the heart of what I was setting out to achieve when I worked on this training pack.

There is a real absence of good quality training enabling staff to effectively support people with autism, and I’m hoping this will fill that void and provide a useful tool.

– Dan Redfearn

The postcards will be aimed at care providers and staff in schools and charities, as well as families learning to adjust after a child has been diagnosed with autism.

Helen also spoke of the 'misunderstanding' surrounding her daughter's condition and the suffering it can cause.

Dan has done an amazing job of producing this training package, based on the idea that people can learn effectively from looking directly at the experiences of a real person.

We hope this training resource will make a difference by helping staff in all kinds of organisations think about their working practices, so autistic people have better opportunities.

– Helen Larder

The postcards have formed part of a training resource called 'Understanding Autism: A training pack for support staff and professionals' which will be published later this month.