From the Church in Wales
A West Wales vicar has won a lifetime achievement award for raising awareness of autism.
Revd Dr John Gillibrand, vicar of Llangeler, near Llandysul, is the first winner of the Autism Heroes Lifetime Achievement Award at Holly’s Ball, an annual event raising money for autism charities.
He was praised for the dedication and commitment he has shown to the condition since his son Adam, now a teenager, was diagnosed with it.
Over the past two decades John and his wife Gill have been staunch supporters and advocates for people with autism and their families. John has taken the cause of autism to both the Welsh Government and to Westminster and also to the Church where he received support and encouragement.
Announcing the award, Jo Salmon, Holly’s Ball Founder, said, “As a parent of a child with autism, John is an inspiration. He's worked so hard to raise autism awareness in Wales and on a political level. He's paved the way for other parents to follow. We are so honoured to be awarding John with the very first Autism Heroes Lifetime Achievement. It's so well deserved for his dedication and commitment to the cause of autism while facing the struggles that many of us face as parents or carers.”
John said, “It is an honour to be recognised by so many people here in Wales. There have been positive steps over the last two decades but far too many people with autism are still waiting for essential support. It is important that we keep on talking about autism and ensure that people are aware of the challenges faced by people with autism.
“The right support at the right time can make an enormous difference to people’s lives.
“Holly's Ball celebrates in a wonderful way people on the autistic spectrum, those with Asperger Syndrome, the families who love and support them, as well as the professionals involved in their care.”
In 2003 John set up the Cross Party Autism Group in the National Assembly of Wales, which still runs successfully. He has been frequently seen and heard talking about autism, including the journey that he and his family have travelled over the years with a child and now young adult with autism, both on TV and radio and especially in the Welsh language media.
Last month, John’s book, “Disabled Church, Disabled Society: The Implications of Autism for Philosophy, Theology and Politics” was shortlisted for the 2013 Michael Ramsey Prize for Theological Writing.
This year Holly’s Ball raised more than £7,000 for the National Autistic Society (NAS) Cymru and Autism Cymru. It was organised by Jo Salmon to increase awareness of autism, a lifelong condition which affects over 1 in 100 people in Wales. Jo’s daughter Holly has Asperger syndrome which, like autism, affects how a person communicates and relates to others, as well as how they see the world.