Ipswich grandfather takes on 10,000 step challenge for World Autism Awareness Week

Ian Hartley, 71, will walk around fives miles every day this week to mark World Autism Awareness Wee

Ian Hartley, 71, will walk around fives miles every day this week to mark World Autism Awareness Week. Picture: WARREN PAGE - Credit: Archant

An Ipswich grandfather is walking 10,000 steps every day this week to mark World Autism Awareness Week and to raise some charity cash.

Ian Hartley is walking 10,000 steps this week to raise awareness of autism. Picture: WARREN PAGE

Ian Hartley is walking 10,000 steps this week to raise awareness of autism. Picture: WARREN PAGE - Credit: Archant

Ian Hartley, 71, who recently took a role as a public governor at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), became aware of the special needs of people on the autism spectrum though his induction at the trust, which runs the Suffolk Autism Diagnostic Service.

“The more I thought about it, he more I realised that various people I’ve known over the years are probably on the autism spectrum,” he said.

“I signed up for the ‘Walk with Autism’ challenge to walk 10,000 steps for eight consecutive days because I want to help raise awareness and do my bit to get people talking about it which will, hopefully, help reduce the stigma around it. I have personally experienced mental health issues in the past and I believe that doing exercise is very good for my own well being, which is another reason why I was keen to do the 10,000 steps challenge.”

Mr Hartley, who was chief executive of East Suffolk Mind for almost 20 years until 2006, said he was hoping to raise £500 for the Autism Initiatives charity. Ten thousand steps is equivalent to around five miles in distance, or around 100 minutes of walking.

“In the past autism wasn’t diagnosed or even recognised, said Mr Hartley.

“The more awareness we spread and the more people know the better.”

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In October the NSFT launched its green light for mental health services strategy for 2017-2022 to make sure its mental health services meet the needs of people with learning disabilities ot who are on the autism spectrum.

Mr Hartley has already signed up as a ‘Green Light Champion’ for the trust, with the aim of promoting best practice and care.

The Suffolk Autism Diagnostic Service, based at Haymills House, in Station Road East in Stowmarket, was launched in April 2013 to provide short term support after diagnosis and information on where people can go to get help long term.

According to the National Autistic Society, there are around 700,000 autistic people in the UK - more than 1 in 100.

For more information on Mr Hartley’s step challenge and to donate see here.