A CAMPAIGN to make Milford Haven the first autism-friendly town in south west Wales drew an interested crowd at the Torch Theatre on July 6.

The bid, launched by the town’s Neighbourhood Policing Team (NPT), has already seen more than 30 local businesses and organisations sign up to improve their knowledge of autistic spectrum disorder (ASD).

They have completed an online course, which gives advice on how to make people across the spectrum feel more comfortable while out and about.

Dyfed-Powys Police force is also working to train all staff on the subject, to help improve the support on offer to those with ASD throughout the community.

At an official launch event at the Torch Theatre, charities, groups and organisations came together to see how the project is progressing, and share information, guidance and advice.

Superintendent Ian John said the police were often the “first and last port of call for people in crisis”, and so it was vital the force knew how to best help vulnerable people.

“Policing is all about being a part of the community,” he said.

“This is just the start of what we want to do.”

He said the people of Milford Haven should be “really proud” of throwing their support behind the campaign.

Frances Rees, west Wales ASD development officer, said raising awareness and acceptance of autism was important to “break down barriers” and avoid the stigma that many people - including their parents or carers - still experience.

Those gathered heard how autism affects around one in 100 people, but many adults remained undiagnosed.

By making everyone in a community more aware of what to look for, and how to help, those with ASD would be more able to get out into the town and live their lives to the full.

Members of Pembrokeshire People First, which works with adults with learning disabilities and ASD also spoke about their personal experiences, and how shop staff being polite and patient of their condition could help ease daily anxiety.

Also speaking at the event were mayor of Milford Haven Cllr Colin Sharp, and Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed-Powys Police Dafydd Llywelyn.