Aukids is a quarterly publication which was launched in Manchester, UK in 2008. It was initially distributed to local families with children on the autistic spectrum. it was founded by Debby Elley, journalist and mother of twins with autism along with Tori Houghton a specialist speech and language therapist who also runs her own support agency, ‘Time Specialist Support’. Debby explains how she met Tori and how the magazine evolved.
“I first met Tori Houghton when she was a speech and language therapist for my twin boys Bobby and Alec.” Tori is a qualified speech and language therapist and has worked with children with autism since she qualified in 2000. The idea for Time Specialist Support emerged when she was on clinical placement at University.I was overwhelmed at how much families seemed desperate for this kind of support. It was then I realised the importance of just having a couple of hours off to do normal things like shopping or to clean the bath.”
“After her sessions with the boys, I would pass on ideas that I’d heard about for her other clients. In turn she always had loads to tell me about what she’d seen and read. We were both brimming with ideas that we loved to exchange. One day Tori suggested that we put it all together in a magazine. She knew that before having twins I’d been a journalist. I had my hands full with autistic five-year-olds, but there was something about Tori’s enthusiasm that was very infectious and I thought ‘Well why not?’ We were both very uninspired by the sorts of material available to parents at that time. When we started, there were no other parenting magazines especially for parents of children with autism. Quite a lot of the disability information that I was getting through the post was rather dry.”
Debby further explains:
“My writing style is naturally very chatty and buoyant and Tori is very down to earth and is fantastic at working collaboratively with parents and ‘reading’ autistic children. We didn’t really realise it at the time, but this was an unusual combination. We managed to produce an informative style that wasn’t patronising, and readers really responded to it. The printing was funded by a kind donation from the Joshua Short Foundation and a graphic designer friend of mine, Sarah McCall, worked on the pilot for free.
“After a few issues, graphic designer Jo Perry came on board, who is an animator as well as a graphic designer. We secured some sponsorship from Standard Life, who were kind enough to print the magazine for two years. By that time we had introduced a subscription and had become a nationwide magazine”.
Aukids is a not for profit organisation and a social enterprise which is run on a “shoe string budget”. The magazine is funded by a mixture of subscribers, who pay £10 a year for the quarterly magazine, some sponsorships and donations as well as carefully selected advertising. Debby explains that “we filter this carefully and our policy is to avoid being reliant on advertising to survive as an enterprise – that way we retain our integrity and our credibility with our readers”.
The magazine offers information, product reviews and carefully researched topics such as sleep issues and sensory difficulties. There is also an ‘ask the experts’ section. Autism Daily Newscast asked Debby about the future of Aukids,
“We are expanding the magazine in January 2014 by four more pages. This will make a huge difference as we’ve become quite adept at squeezing a large amount of information into a small space. We’ve also decided that now we’re well known in the autism world, we are going to run our own speaking events to raise funds for the magazine. Tim Tuff, who has autism, has been our distribution assistant for four years and has now started to give his own talks at autism events.”
Tim is well known in the autism community and is an active networker. Tim is also involved with helping to develop Stockport’s Adult Autism Strategy.
Aukids have also started to sell their own t shirts and bags with positive autism slogans on them. Debby explains that they are a ‘way of creating an atmosphere of inclusion and tolerance instead of the fear that sometimes greets autistic kids when they’re out and about.’
Autism Daily Newscast asked Debby about her twin sons Bobby and Alec:
“Bobby and Alec were near their third birthday when they were diagnosed with autism in November 2006. Neither of them talked but they were extremely interactive and engaging. No-one thought they were autistic, although I had my suspicions that they had some sort of developmental delay. I started to teach Bobby Makaton sign language when he was three and when he was nearly 4 he started to talk. Then there was a mild explosion of language. He is quite gifted at maths and computers and socially has come on in leaps and bounds at an inclusive mainstream school. We have worked at home on eye contact and social skills and it seems to have paid off. I do practise what I preach – everything we write in AuKids, I’m prepared to do myself. If I’m not prepared to do something myself, then I reckon it’s not fair to ask parents to find the time to do it. The only thing I haven’t personally tried is our handmade weighted blanket – I’m rubbish at sewing!
“Alec has learning difficulties on top of the autism due to an accident he had at the age of nearly 2. He is pre-verbal but his receptive language has soared and he has also developed some really engaging ways of getting his messages across. He goes to a special school and is in an autism class, although he started off in a PMLD (profound and multiple learning difficulties) class. Alec did not have the fine motor skills for Makaton at first, so we started him off on PECS (Picture Exchange Communication system). He can now form short sentences with the PECS cards. Once his motor skills started to improve we revisited Makaton and he does a fair few signs as well, now. We are hopeful that one day he’ll talk but that could be down to the brain injury he suffered rather than his autism. He certainly has the will to communicate, which is half the battle. It’s communication, rather than speech, which has to be the aim. If speech comes it’s the icing on the cake.
“Alec and Bobby are both happy and loads of fun. Having them has changed my life in so many ways for the better. “
You can be read about Alec and Bobby by visiting the Aukids Blog
To help support the publication, T Shirts can be purchased here: Aukids T Shirts