Chertsey Radio Club buys Ofcom business radio licence to aid autism carers
Written by: Sam Fenwick | Published:
Thomas, Preece's autistic son uses two-way radio to let his father know where he is

Chertsey Radio Club (CRC) has bought a five-year simple business radio licence from Ofcom to allow those with autism and their carers to use 5 watt hand-held two-way radios to reduce some of the practical difficulties associated with the condition, following a raffle by the club to raise the necessary funds.

The project began when James Preece, CRC club member found that while his autistic son, Thomas aged 11 loved riding on his bike, he would often travel too far away or head off somewhere without letting his father know.

“Being an avid radio ham, I decided to see if Thomas would carry a little walkie-talkie with him, and whether he would he respond back to me and let me know where he was,” Preece said. He bought Thomas a Baofeng 888 UHF radio set, which contained two radios, a docking station and USB charge plug, together with some other accessories. He then added an Autism Awareness sticker to the radio, as a quick visual aid for the public.

Thomas took to using the radio and after a few frustrating conversations in which he’d reply “I’m here Dad”, without elaborating any further, he now routinely uses the radio to tell his father where he is and how soon he’ll be back.

While Preece notes that every child on the autistic spectrum will differ in their interest in and willingness to use two-way radios, he explains that with Thomas, as he is so keen to ride his bicycle, making him take a radio as a precondition of any bike rides helped as did showing him what would happen if he keyed up the radio at the same time as his father. Preece also recommends asking for specific details about the user’s location, e.g. “which road are you in” and keeping individual messages brief.

“Once he got the idea that he was not going to be using the radio all the time and he only needed to respond when called or if he needed help, Thomas was quite comfortable with using the radio,” said Preece.

He adds that Thomas and his radio quickly drew the attention of the other local children, who often cycled with him, allowing other parents to use the radio as a means of checking on their children.

As the project developed, Preece wondered if it would be useful to offer a similar service to the National Autistic Society (NAS), so that it and its carers, as well as people on the autistic spectrum could also benefit from the additional communication, independence and security that two-way radio use provides.

“I spoke at length with Ofcom to see how we could best do this and was really happy to find out that by buying a simple business light license we could cover the project all over the UK.” The licence cost £75 (£15 per year).

“Our radio club then held their summer raffle and raised enough money to buy the Ofcom licence, which is fantastic and I am really grateful to them. They also raised money for Cancer research UK.”

Preece is now working with NAS and its local branches to enable people on the autistic spectrum to use the radios and help encourage them to live more independently. CRC can supply and program two-way radios for use by those with autism and their carers at cost price.

“We have a great working relationship with radio manufacturer RETEVIS and they have agreed to help supply the radios to the NAS at the best price possible,” Preece said.

“If you or someone you know is on the autism spectrum, or could benefit from using our license please do reach out to us. We are happy to help talk you through and help you get set up. It’s not complex at all and we really hope we can help you out,” Preece concluded.

For more information on this project, please visit http://chertseyradioclub.blogspot.co.uk or Or contact the club via email



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