This year’s new Lord Mayor of Leeds has made her choice for her charity of the year - and it’s a cause close to her heart.
Coun Judith Chapman will be raising funds for Specialist Autism Services (SAS) throughout her 2015-2016 term of office, a charity which supports adults with an autism spectrum condition in Leeds.
The new mayor has seen first hand the vital work of SAS - formally known as Sacar, as her daughter Harriet, 36, was diagnosed three years ago with autism and uses its services.
Coun Chapman said: “It’s given me a lot of pleasure to be ale to say to SAS that I want them to be my chosen charity for the year.
“They give people a lifeline to learn how to cope and live as normal a life as possible. Unfortunately Leeds just doesn’t have many facilities like this. That’s why I’m so passionate about it. I’m hoping to provide equipment for SAS so that they can develop their services further.”
SAS currently supports over 200 adults from its bases including Dewbsury Road, near Hunslet and Otley, helping them to develop social skills, confidence and, ultimately employability.
Autism is thought to affect about one per cent of the population. It is a lifelong disability which affects how a person communicates with other people and how they make sense of the world around them.
Coun Chapman said: “I don’t think people understand. For instance, a lot of them have problems with senses, especially hearing noise. The noise becomes so much in their brain that they can’t think or hear anything else. I know that happens, but another person wouldn’t understand why they might suddenly retreat into themselves.
“They don’t like people and I think that’s because people don’t know how to cope with them.
“Many are extremely clever but sometimes their forthrightness, which is part of the autism, appears to the public rude or anti-social whereas those with autism don’t realise that they are offending people.”
She added: “It’s as important to me to raise awareness as it is to raise money this year.”
Linda Langstaff, service co-ordinator of SAS said: “We are honoured and proud to be named the Lord Mayor’s charity of the year. Our main aim is to raise funds for our service but more importantly raise awareness of Autism Spectrum Conditions across the city of Leeds.”
She added: “I am privileged to work with this client group, I have met some of the most unique, intelligent, kind, honest, humorous and caring individuals that I am every likely to meet in my lifetime.”
To donate, visit www.justgiving.com/lmce or send a cheque payable to ‘The Lord Mayor’s Charity Appeal’ to The Lord Mayor’s Office, 1st Floor West, Civic Hall, Leeds, LS1 1UR.