Monthly Archives: April 2017

sarah readings london marathon

Sarah Readings London marathon for Autism Angels!

Message from Sarah:

Crossing the finish line of the London marathon was the culmination of a journey which has lasted many months and hundreds of miles. There have been highs and lows, sacrifices and blessings. I have sweated, cried and smiled my way through it all to persuade as many people as possible to support AA. Every penny raised will go towards a vulnerable child accessing the magic of the horses. Maybe next time we can do the pantomime horse!!

You can still donate to Sarah on her Local Giving page just click here>>

Thank you Sarah and everyone who supported her

Tandem Skydive for charity

25 to Dive Tandem Skydive for charity!

Autism Angels are looking for 25 (or more) lovely people to Tandem Skydive for charity! 

Imagine standing at the edge of an open doorway in an aircraft flying at 10,000 feet – the noise of the engines and the wind ringing in your ears with only the outline of distant fields below. Now imagine leaning forward out of that doorway and letting go – falling forward into the clouds, diving down through the air as you start freefalling at over 120mph! Then imagine the peace and quiet as the canopy opens, the steering toggles come down either side of you and you begin a tranquil parachute descent from a mile up in the air, steering yourself back down to the centre of the drop zone below. Imagine being able to do this for FREE whilst raising money for Autism Angels… this is what we call a “win win”.

We also have a prize for the person who raises the most sponsorship for Autism Angels… Will it be you? 🙂

Find out more about our Tandem Skydive for charity

Find out more about how it works and how much you need to raise by downloading the info pack

Want to join us?

Great we’d love for us all to Tandem Skydive for charity – Autism Angels together on 15th September 2018,  so why not sign up, get those sponsors rolling in and put on your big girl or boy pants on and do something amazing for Autism Angels!!

Email our Events Team to sign up here:

Download a sponsorship form


Spring is in the air … endings and new beginnings.

As I head towards the 1st anniversary of my mums death, it was really important for me to connect with our closest families and volunteers who have supported not only me, but each other and Autism Angels over the last year. These amazing people, who have their own journeys to navigate have been kind, compassionate, thoughtful and incredibly supportive through one of the most difficult times of my life. I wanted to thank them all by getting together and celebrating our new beginnings.

sarah-shearman-autism-angelsWe got together for walking, talking, riding, bouncy castles and a great BBQ. We also managed to get some filming in for a special project, more info later, and some professional photos done by Steve from Nidd Gorge and Lauren Walker. The sun shone down on these wonderful families as we laughed, cried and caught up on whats been happening for everyone. We had our biggest ride out ever with nearly 50 people enjoying the Yorkshire countryside on horseback, leading dogs or taking a stroll. We then ended the day with a balloon release (all biodegradable) so we can send our love and wishes to the sky. There is something truly amazing about just being together with people you care about. What a perfect day! Big hugs to everyone and we cant wait to see you all again soon.

Sarah Sx

autism angels yorkshire

autism-angels-horses horses-supporting-autism autism-angels-uk-family-support autism-family-fun

Autism Angels Family Fun Day

Autism Angels Family Fun Day

Our first Autism Angels Family Fun Day of the season took place on Saturday the 8th of April. The sun was shining and the birds were singing. This was also the first Autism Angels Family Fun Day for some of our new volunteers who had been through their first training programme. The day started at 9am where we met and discussed our roles then everyone started to prepare for the families. Everyone was ready by 10.30 when our first family arrived.

autism friendly day outAfter being shown around the property and, most importantly, where the refreshments are (cakes and biscuits which are mostly homemade by our wonderful volunteers), the families were introduced to the team and the horses. We started the day with a few fun games – the FREEZE game and RUN TO THE SPOT game. These break the ice and gets everyone joining in. Next, we taught the families to approach and lead the horses making sure everyone could stop, start and turn their horses. Once they could do this we then did some fun relay races with the ponies. This helps the children become more confident and independent around the horses, but it’s also essential to help them learn to set boundaries.

This rounded nicely off into lunch – we sat in the lovely courtyard with the sun shining brightly (who would have thought we would need sun cream at the beginning of April!)

Autism Angels Family Fun DayAfter lunch the exciting part of the day was going out on a ride. The children were encouraged to discuss who was riding first, leading the horse, assisting in traffic control or walking one of the dogs. We find this helps with communication, sets out a definite picture for everyone and helps with expectations. We encourage parents to be part of this contracting as it is something they can take away and use in their everyday lives. The ride was a lovely leisurely ride with the children making the most of the different roles, watching their confidence grow was amazing. We believe that they are all extremely capable of anything. Whilst riding, one of the children kept slipping to one side – their parents (as you would expect) quickly supported them. This often results in them becoming quite dependant on another person for in this case their balance. The parents had to trust us when we encouraged them to remove their feet from the stirrups – this made them more aware of their own balance and they became straighter immediately. This was a break through moment for parents, volunteers and the rider – in a short space of time, trust had been established. The rider had been ENABLED to take responsible for their own balance and could consistently correct themselves whilst riding.

During the Autism Angels Family Fun Day we work with, and encourage the whole family to step into their power and learn some new things, or even step outside their comfort zones! We work towards the breakthroughs that can make a difference to everyone’s lives.

Sarah E x

If you are interested in joining us on one of our upcoming Family Fun Days please contact us on: or visit our events page for dates.

autism angels sudent programme

Mentoring Updates

We have been enjoying some lovely weather recently on our mentoring programmes which has been great as it has meant we are able to get outside with the horses and go on walks, which in the gorgeous Yorkshire countryside really does mean your mind, body and soul are replenished.

I often get asked what sort of activities people do on the programme and how it benefits their life so here are a few things we have been up to this month.

student support autismAt the start of April, our lovely horse Akua had some awful mud clumps under her belly where part of her saddle fits. If we left this mud there and continued to ride her, it would rub her and make her sore. As everyone loves to go out for a ride, we spent one session just bathing Akua and getting the clumps out of her hair to make her more comfortable; helping to develop empathy for others. It really gave us the opportunity to open up discussions about how the students felt by helping. They also got to identify when they might be uncomfortable (such as wearing in new shoes) and how this can be upsetting or painful.

Sticky is a chestnut pony that does a lot of leading work. Sticky has teeth with big gaps in and the grass gets stuck in the gaps when she is eating and this could cause gum disease, so she has to have her teeth brushed everyday to keep them healthy. We love getting the children to help out with this job as it teaches them very quickly how important it is to brush your teeth everyday (especiallyAutism angels mentoring students when they get a whiff of her smelly breath!!). Sticky only likes her teeth brushing sometimes, so we often work with her to help her understand what we are doing. We have to work out how to brush her teeth without causing her distress. This is a great opportunity for the students to come up with their own ideas of what might help her – and this helps parents, teachers and us as it means we can hear from the student’s perspective what they would find helpful if going through something similar. The support they are then offered at times of distress is much more appropriate to their needs.

There are so many activities like this that help our students and their parents and teachers open up and share experiences, I can’t wait to share more with you over the coming months!

Nicki x

autism angels volunteers

Autism Angels Volunteer Training 2017

Each year Autism Angels Volunteers Training programme trains up to 30 volunteers and every time we have tried to fine tune the way we do it. What I’ve realised over the years is that you can’t give everyone all the information all at once. And to be honest they don’t need it, however much they think they do.

This year’s training, I feel has been a great balance of information giving and personal development, whereas on previous years I feel we have gone too deep too quickly with our volunteers with more of a focus on their personal development. This year we have been able to balance what we needed the Autism Angels Volunteers to know and do for us during our events with the opportunities for them to learn and grow their own skill sets, a much more helpful approach for all involved.

We started a bit later this year due to the dark nights and not quite having the facilities in place we need to work into the nights yet but this seemed to work well and the volunteers were amused and amazed at what you can learn from horses by moonlight. Our meet and greet night is always a good indication of how people will get on with how we do things here at Autism Angels as our ice breaking exercises can catapult people outside of their comfort zones but it gets everyone laughing and getting to know each other.

charity volunteering harrogateAs we progress into the training there is always so much to cover in such a short space of time, from how we meet and greet our families, to refreshment roles, to connecting roles and of course the work with the horses. Everyone needs a general insight into each role but we stick very much to ‘strength zones’ for the events. The people who have experience with horses learn new skills and ways of working with them but generally their biggest learning is to trust the process and step back and let the horses do their part in it. This can also go for the connecting role. This role takes care of our families and can bring new wisdom to a family about how they may be influencing their children’s behaviours. When the parents see someone else work with their children and get a breakthrough by trying something different, this can give them confidence to do this at home.

duke of edinburgh volunteering harrogateOur Autism Angels Volunteers training is one of the highlights of the year for me as I always love training people where there is a win-win in the relationship. They always have something to teach us and the exchange of knowledge and time is invaluable to us. We laugh, we cry, we learn and friendships are formed. The whole experience is magical and one that changes so many lives.

Sarah S x

If you would like to join our wonderful group of Autism Angels Volunteers you can put your name down for the next training sessions by e-mailing Please follow us on our Autism Angels UK Facebook page to for all our up to date news and events.


Autism acceptance harrogate

April’s Autism Acceptance Walk 2017

We held our third annual Autism Acceptance Walk on Saturday 1st April 2017 to help raise understanding and inclusion of those living with neurological differences (timed to coincide with World Autism Awareness Week to highlight Autism Acceptance).  Luckily, the sun shone down on us as we were joined by our families past and present, teaching staff from the schools we support and our lovely team of loyal volunteers.  It was particularly heartening to welcome back some of our older mentoring students who returned as volunteers, serving as great role models to the younger children and demonstrating the improvements they continue to make in terms of their communication and interaction, confidence and independence.  Thank you Milosz, Sam and Christopher.

autism awareness harrogateLed by our gorgeous white ponies Blackjack and Pedra (who had been bathed especially the night before!), we undertook a 3.2 mile circular route starting at The Academy Health Club and Spa, through Valley Gardens and into the town centre.  Taking some of our herd from their natural environment of a field into a busy shopping precinct serves as a good metaphor for how life can be for those on the autism spectrum – experiencing high levels of anxiety and uncertainty as they struggle to ‘fit in’ and negotiate a world governed by complex, unwritten social ‘rules’ and language, all the while assaulted by an overload of sensory information.

Autism-Angels autism awarenessOur youngest volunteers Ben, Sophie and Natasha charmed the good people of Harrogate to donate generously, giving us a total raised on the day of £292.77.  Every penny raised will make a difference in helping us support local families in need.

Thank you to everyone who joined us and we hope to see you next year!

Lynn x

Photos kindly provided by Steve from Nidd Gorge Photography