Last month we celebrated World Autism Awareness Day with particular enthusiasm, as it is ten years since Romsey Mill developed Aspire – a programme of groups, activities and one-to-one support for young people with high functioning autistic spectrum conditions.
Since 2005, Aspire has worked with over 150 remarkable young people (and their families), and we’ve been inspired by their courage, perseverance and the way they overcome the daily challenges they face. To mark the occasion, we held an ’autism friendly’ disco with delicious home-baked snacks, a raffle, games and competitions – including limbo dancing! Opportunities to socialise and hang out, in an environment where they feel safe and supported, are vital for a young person’s confidence and self esteem, as they can often feel isolated and judged at school or in the wider community.
In recent years, as Aspire has grown, we’ve been particularly impressed with the way families have created their own informal networks of friendship and support – keeping in touch via Facebook or meeting up to share the joys and challenges of having a member of the family with an ASC.
We are also encouraged by the way the families fundraise for Aspire, as they know not every child or young person with an ASC gets to access the programme. One mum, DeAnna Benjafield, is running from London to Brighton on 23/24 May 2015. She is doing this as her daughter Leah attends an Aspire girls' group - DeAnna explains:
"Romsey Mill has given Leah a place where she can go and be understood. She doesn't have to explain "why" they just know. She feels comfortable to be herself! She looks forward to going every week and can't wait to get home from school on a Wednesday so she can start getting ready. No matter what happens at school she knows she's only a few days or hours away from being with her new friends. She told me that the group "is where everything amazing happens! all my dreams in one place!" It's given her a place where she can be herself, no questions asked."
We work with 80 young people and hold 9 groups every week, but demand is growing. If you'd like to support Aspire and help us to work with as many young people as we can, either as a volunteer or by giving us a donation, please contact Charity Green on 01223 566492.
Or you can sponsor DeAnna via Just Giving.