People get involved in our fundraising challenges for all kinds of reasons. But they all have one thing in common – they want to support autistic people and their families. A few of our wonderful fundraisers share their stories about why they decided to take on Ben Nevis in August below.

We already have a team of over 60 taking part over the weekend and they have raised £4000 so far with 7 months to go.

John Badcock
Paul Richards
Hannah Winn
Claire Shaw
Wendy Laidlaw
Nicolle Saunders
Cameron Straughan

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John Badcock


My inspiration for joining Team Autism was threefold. Firstly and most importantly, my son David who is now in his early 20s, and was diagnosed with autism at age three. He has very little functional language, excellent computer skills and a love of all things Disney. David is a very loving young man,   but was also difficult and quite destructive as a child. He was a termly boarder at a specialist school   from age 11 and since age 18 has lived in specialist residential accommodation run and managed by   the NAS. David and I enjoy walking when he is home for a weekend, so walking in order to raise   funds seemed a good thing to do.Secondly, of course, I was aware of the immense amount of work that the NAS undertake in   increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders, and in enabling and encouraging people with   autism to achieve their full potential. It is a very worthy cause as well as being one close to my heart.

Finally, my daughter Elly was working for the NAS in events management when the first Ben Nevis  climb took place, and climbed it with a colleague. I had been on a long-distance walk that year (the   first for many years, in my mid-fifties) and so when Elly suggested I climb Snowdon with her the following year I thought "why not". After I signed up, Elly remembered a prior engagement, so I was on my own.........

My experience of climbing Snowdon in 2016, and Scafell Pike last year (this time with Elly!) was really enjoyable. The events are well organised with information and encouragement in advance, and they are expertly led. What struck me the most on both events was the common cause, friendship and empathy of all the walkers, the real encouragement and help from the guides, and the amazing stamina of the NAS staff who climbed Scafell Pike two days in a row. I won't pretend that it was easy - Elly and I were by some distance the last people down from Scafell Pike - but there is a real sense of achievement, both personally and for the fundraising element. 

I am climbing Ben Nevis because I now want to do the triple, because it is higher than the other two, because I can raise more money for the NAS, and in order to indulge a love of trains by taking the opportunity to travel on the Caledonian Sleeper from London to Fort William! Apparently I will also be the first to climb all three peaks on NAS-managed events.

I am aware that there are many who have outdone me in terms of sponsorship money raised, which is excellent for the NAS. I would say that between the two previous climbs and visits to "Thomas Land" at Drayton Manor theme park I have raised around #2000 for NAS from a faithful and uncomplaining group of friends and colleagues, and I would like to raise #1000 this year if I can, as I may then hang up my boots and look at less masochistic ways of fundraising.

I hope to meet many of you at Ben Nevis, and hope that if you are not climbing it you will be encouraged to support the many people who are.


Paul Richards

 
I'm Paul or Rico as everyone calls me, I have signed up to the walk because my beautiful daughter Martha 7 is Autistic, we suspected at an early age and went through a lot of hoops and waiting and not knowing what to do, me and Martha's mum divorced, I think we had different ideas where to turn, a lot has gone on since 3 years down the line Martha was eventually assessed we tried mainstream school but she is now at a specialist Autism school, Martha has a fantastic sister Elke who is nearly 10 and has to put up with Marthas tantrums, they love each other dearly tho, I have decided to do the trek to raise awareness for people who are in the position we were a few years ago my good friend Alan Jackson is coming with Me, Alan is my partner Tracy's best friends husband they all love Martha and want too help.

I have been on a few training walks and am enjoying it, it give me some much needed space to breathe.


Hannah Winn

My family and I have felt very touched by all the good luck wishes and messages over the past few weeks as well as all the generous donations, but now I want to take my turn to say thanks and tell you my story and why I have chosen to join forces with the National Autistic Society and climb Ben Nevis!

I went to a mainstream school, and later onto university. However having a diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome when I was at school has always been a challenge.  I have always tried to stay as positive as possible which has largely been down to my parents and family. I have been lucky enough to break through some of the bullying and ridicule from people who you would often expect to look up to such as teachers, university tutors and even special needs teachers and most recently employers, feeling as though they could somehow take advantage of the fact that I had autism and that I clearly think differently to the others around me. Something that clearly seems is not a unique experience to me. This is the case for so many autistic people, who are trying incredibly hard, sometimes impossibly hard just to get through the day. This seems to me to be a terrible shame, one that I think people need to bring into their real lives to make a conscious decision to make a change, to stop signing petitions and actually go out in your real lives and make a difference so that autistic people don't need to feel these extreme and often unnecessary struggles.

The National Autistic Society have helped me hugely by providing me with mentoring during university. Having someone who was from the outside coming in and standing up for me, explaining how I might be feeling in a much more eloquent way, absolutely saved my life at university, and I would not have made it through without their support! Having achieved what my teachers, my parents and often myself would once have thought impossible! 

I have never wanted to be defined by my autism and have always tried consciously to push myself beyond my limits in the hope that this would somehow help me not only achieve new things and realise new opportunities but also understand myself better, my way of thinking and how I can try to fit into the world. For me it seemed that it was always the small personal achievements that made me feel really grateful and lucky, and focussing on these achievements rather than feeling too knocked down by the big let downs. 

Slowly over time I have built up skills. During university I worked as a conservation research intern in Delhi, and was the first foreign intern for the museum to ever take on board. I also worked twice for three months working as a conservation intern in some of the remotest areas of the Himalayas, and most recently running my own team of conservation scientists. 

I would like to climb Ben Nevis because I want other people to be provided the same services and opportunities like me from the National Autistic Society, and I want Autistic people to realise that they don’t have to feel like they cant live just as fully and freely as someone who is neuro typical if the right support and help is in place and everyone makes a conscious decision to be more open minded and excepting of others.


Claire Shaw

My daughter Madison was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in February 2017. As part of this diagnosis we were offered to do an 8 week intensive early bird course to learn all about Autism and how to manage it. The National Autistic Society provided the training for this course to AWARE our local charity and they provided this free of charge and allowed not only myself and my husband to attend but also a teacher from her school setting to attend and this is my way of giving back.

I am not the fittest person in the world so this will be a real challenge for me that is going to take a lot of determination   and motivation to get up to the top of this mountain

If Madison struggles through life everyday with anxiety, sensory overload, under-sensitivity then me climbing a mountain   isn't too much of a big deal is it?

 

Wendy Laidlaw


Twenty three years ago my son William was diagnosed at the tender age of two with autism. As his autism was profound, I made the most difficult and heartbreaking decision to send him out of county to the nearest National Autistic Society school (Hope Lodge in Southampton) at the young age of just seven which meant he had to board Monday to Friday in term time. Here they worked with him tirelessly and with enormous patience to allow him to reach his individual potential. We'd like to give something back in return by trekking up Ben Nevis so would be very pleased should anyone wish to donate here. I've been told Ben Nevis is a long hard slog mountain, but worth it at the end which sounds about right!

 

 

Nicolle Saunders

New Years day myself and my husband Shane decided we wanted our New Years resolution to be that we raised money for the National Autistic Society. We started looking online at different events the organisation had on and it's always beenon our list of things to do, trek to the summit of Ben Nevis!

We have been together for 10 years and have 3 children together. Ages 8, 6 and 2. Our 6 year old son Miller is profoundly deaf, is a cochlear implant user, non-verbal and has recently been diagnosed with childhood Autism. He also uses sign along. Miller is so funny and kind. He loves looking after his little sister and watching funny videos with his older brother. He works so hard every day to put a smile on someone's face. He is our inspiration!

We at looking forward to meeting new people on our trek, it’s a bit daunting looking but we are raising funds for a terrific  organisation, it will be well worth it.


Cameron Straughan

 Hello!

I am a former fisheries biologist and technical writer (from Canada) who moved to the UK in 2007 to teach science and biology; currently, I teach year 6. 
 
Last May, after waiting a year for the appointment, I was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. The diagnosis, after decades of not knowing why I was "different" and didn't seem to fit in, was a mainly positive experience which I am still adapting to. I am currently planning on pursuing a PhD, focusing on science communication and autistic students, so that I can share my knowledge and experience - and hopefully make things easier for autistic students than it was for me. For me, the Ben Nevis Challenge is much more than just a fundraising opportunity for a worthy cause - it is a personal, symbolic journey to surmount the obstacles that I face as an autistic person.

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