UK mother raising money to help people with autism fleeing Ukraine

Dr Annie Clements said the thought of trying to get her son, who has autism, out of a war zone keeps her awake at night.

19 March 2022

A mother is raising funds to help neurodiverse people fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying the thought of trying to get her autistic son out of a war zone keeps her awake at night.

Dr Annie Clements is the founder and chief executive of Autism & ADHD, a not-for-profit social enterprise which provides support, information and training for adults and children who are living or working with neurodiversity.

She has started a fundraiser with the aim of providing resources both for those attempting to leave Ukraine as well as people on the ground who are trying to help.

She told the PA news agency: “What on earth do you do when you’ve got an autistic child and you’re trying to get out of a war zone?

Annie Clements and her son Tom
Dr Clements said the thought of getting her son Tom out of a war zone keeps her awake at night (Annie Clements)

“It’s hard enough for anybody – obviously I haven’t been through it but you can only try and relate in that situation – but then when you’ve got children with neurodiversity, or even they may be neurodiverse themselves as parents, trying to navigate that is absolutely mind-blowing.”

Dr Clements, who has ADHD, said the work she does with the organisation is inspired by her son Tom, who has autism.

She said: “The thought of trying to get Tom out of war zone literally keeps me awake at night.”

Neurodiverse people may particularly struggle with the uncertainty of the situation, Dr Clements said.

“Very common in the autism world are what we call visual timetables, so they have their day mapped out visually for them, and for children that would be pictorially,” Dr Clements said.

“So in a school situation, they would have pictures about what the day was going to be, to enable them to feel safe, because when you can’t see ahead, it’s actually really scary just in a normal day-to-day situation.

“But when you’re in the situation that they’re in, where there is no certainty about what’s going to happen next and what they’re going to do and how they’re going to manage, it multiplies that by millions almost.”

Not being able to identify a fixed end-point to the disturbed period could also be difficult to cope with for people with autism, she said.

Through the fundraiser, Dr Clements hopes to be able to produce cards with basic information about autism for professionals working on the ground, so they know how to best serve any neurodiverse people they encounter.

“They don’t need to know everything there is to know about autism,” Dr Clements said.

“They just need some really clear guidelines about what what to do and equally what not to do.”

And she also aims to put information online to help parents of neurodiverse people who are trying to flee the country.

Autism & ADHD is asking for donations to help develop the cards, to get them to where they need to be and to build up their volunteer network.

The organisation also hopes to be able to provide support to any UK households who host a neurodiverse person from Ukraine.

To donate, head to gofundme.com/f/resources-for-autistic-ukraine-families

More from Perspective

Get a free copy of our print edition


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed

Your email address will not be published. The views expressed in the comments below are not those of Perspective. We encourage healthy debate, but racist, misogynistic, homophobic and other types of hateful comments will not be published.