FAMILIES across Hampshire fighting for a better future for their autistic children are being urged to get their voices heard.

After winning a historic victory to get the Autism Bill passed into law, campaigners have the chance to help shape the country’s first-ever disability-specific law.

The Autism Act has this week taken a step closer to boosting the lives of adults with autism, with the launch of a Government consultation to find out from those suffering on a daily basis, what help is needed.

With more than 16,000 sufferers living in Hampshire, families across the county are being encouraged to have their say and take part in the summer consultation.

In the past, autistic sufferers have been left to their own devices once they hit adulthood, but it is hoped this law will help autistic adults enjoy full and independent lives.

The Autism Act means it is now the statutory duty of local authorities to meet the needs of adults with autism, helping them to train and get jobs, which previously was impossible for many.

Single-mum Alyson Miller, from Swanmore, has an 11-year-old son, Matthew, who is severely autistic. She said: “As a mum it gives me peace of mind for the future, that there will be support in place for Matthew when he gets older.

“It will make a huge difference to an awful lot of families. It will take time to put into place all the resources but it is a step in the right direction.”

The 12-week consultation process seeks views from those with autism, their families and carers on a number of issues, including diagnosis of the condition, setting up of relevant services and better training and awareness from frontline staff.

Andrew Monaghan, chief executive officer of Hampshire Autistic Society, said: “The society is delighted with the launch of the Statutory Guidance consultation.

“This forms a key part of the enactment of the Autism Act 2009 and Autism Strategy 2010, which will place a statutory obligation on local authorities and local health bodies to ensure that they act to fulfil the requirements of the Autism Strategy.

“We are urging anyone who is affected by autism to take part in this vital consultation and we will be working with the newly formed Hampshire Autism Partnership Board to promote and support this critical consultation.”