Ipswich woman creates resources to support refugees with autism and ADHD

Annie Clements, second right, is the founder and Chief Executive of Ipswich-based social enterprise, Autism and ADHD

Annie Clements, second right, is the founder and Chief Executive of Ipswich-based social enterprise, Autism and ADHD. Pictured are L-R: Brandon Perkins, Daniel Harvey, Annie Clements and son, Tom. - Credit: Annie Clements

A woman from Ipswich is determined to provide resources for Ukrainians with autism and ADHD who have been forced to leave their homes. 

Annie Clements is the founder and chief executive of Autism and ADHD social enterprise.

She is also a mother to an autistic son and says that the war in Ukraine has brought home to her how difficult and traumatic life must be for neurodivergent families whose lives are touched by conflict and disasters. 

“My middle son, Tom, has got severe autism and needs 24/7 care. He’s 31, and he’s at home with us,” said Annie. 

Annie's son, Tom, has severe autism, while Annie herself has ADHD.

Annie's son, Tom, has severe autism, while Annie herself has ADHD. - Credit: Annie Clements

Pictured here with JumpIn of Ipswich, whose team have recently received training in autism and ADHD.

Autism and ADHD work to make spaces incline for their community. Pictured here with JumpIn of Ipswich, whose team have recently received training in autism and ADHD. - Credit: Annie Clements

Annie is passionate about promoting a greater understanding of autism and ADHD. Pictured here in Brunei,

Annie is passionate about promoting a greater understanding of autism and ADHD. Pictured here in Brunei, where she and the team were invited by the British Army to give training, due a rising number of young people with ASD and ADHD. - Credit: Annie Clements

“There was a real flashpoint for me about two days in [to the invasion] when everyone was starting to move. I thought, ‘Oh, my god – how the hell would I move with Tom?” 

Annie contacted the British Red Cross to find out what provision there was for children dealing with trauma, but found that there was little that would be helpful to those with autism. 

“We sat down as a team, and came up with the initial suggestion that we would create a card that support workers could have in their pockets, about how to support an adult or child with autism who’d just arrived at their desk. 

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“Do this, but don’t do that. Something simple that you can read in 30 seconds.” 

All these resources will also be available online, and Annie and the team are also creating similar cards for children, explaining their situation and reassuring them in a way that they can understand. 

For example, a card given to an autistic child might say, “I’m feeling really scared, but I know my family are doing all they can to keep me safe.”  

Now, Annie and her team are determined to raise the funds they need to create these resources, and share them with organisations worldwide. 

“We suddenly realised that this resource is needed wherever there’s an issue. It will be needed in Syria, or somewhere after an earthquake,” she said. 

“Whilst Ukraine needs it right now, we need to find a way to embed that into practice permanently. 

“There’s an opportunity here for us in good, old Suffolk to make a really big difference.” 

So far they have raised more than £1,600 towards creating the resources.