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Chester Zoo and Cheshire Oaks sign up to become Autism Champions

Both attractions have pledged to provide staff training and increase awareness

Carol Whitbourn (left) from McAthur Glen Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet and Jane Hubbard from Chester Zoo with Robin Bush, CEO of Autism Together

Chester Zoo and Cheshire Oaks have signed up to become more autism-friendly.

Both of the attractions have pledged to become Autism Champions under a Department of Health-backed scheme.

They have committed to put their staff through training as well as help spread awareness and understanding.

The Connect to Austism project is being run in the north west by Wirral-based charity Autism Together.

Autism Together CEO Robin Bush said: “People with autism want to lead normal lives, they want to go to the cinema or visit the shops or go on holiday.

“It’s actually easier than you may think to make an organisation autism-friendly by training staff and making small adjustments to venues.

“For example, people with autism can take several seconds to process what you have said, so we train staff to wait patiently for an answer.

“Where it’s possible, we encourage venues to offer a quiet space away from bright lights and noise, for people experiencing anxiety.”

About 700,000 people in the country have been diagnosed with autism.

Cheshire Oaks

Cheshire Oaks and Chester Zoo employees with the condition will be offered a supportive work environment.

Champions training for staff includes how to recognise signs of autism and how to deal with challenging behaviour.

Chester Zoo head of HR Jane Hubbard said: “Chester Zoo is all about engaging a guest on a journey.

“If just one part of that journey is more delightful then we’ve achieved our aim.

“Many of our staff have received training in autism awareness, so we’re pleased to sign up to the charter and commit to continued training in the future.”

The Sunken Garden at Chester Zoo

Liverpool John Lennon Airport, Liverpool Museums and the AJ Bell Stadium have all signed up to the scheme in the north west.

The organisations will be coached by Autism Together’s training arm Autism in Practice.

Autism in Practice head Yvonne Crowhurst said: “It is immensely gratifying to see people are raising awareness of autism.

“One in 100 people have autism, but you could double that by including those not diagnosed.

“This is like throwing a pebble in a pond, the ripples will benefit everyone.”

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