When we first heard of Aspire, we wondered whether Jon would fit in there. Would he be accepted? Would he be accepting?
But Romsey Mill nights are his favourite night. His favourite things about the Aspire group, he says, are mugs of hot chocolate and cheese and ham toasties. He plays the odd game of football or Monopoly. Jon loves the people who work there, and he talks to the other boys and occasionally gets a text from one of them. It is wonderful that he has friends who will text him.
He still needs time to scoot up and down the garden on his own, doing his own thing. But Jon is much more a part of the world around him now, more interested in being with people. And a large part of that is down to the work of Romsey Mill – the safe atmosphere there that has encouraged him to develop a different side and to come out of himself.
Lorraine has two boys, aged 10 and 13. Both are on the autistic spectrum and as a result the boys find the social world difficult, confusing and scary. As a parent, Lorraine finds herself very isolated at times, as do her boys.
'Before coming to Romsey Mill, neither of the boys had any close friends and found school extremely challenging. The younger, in particular, was constantly picked on and bullied – the teachers once found him being tied up with a skipping rope by other children.
'Aspire has made such a difference, at home, at school and with one-off activities during the holidays. I now have somewhere to take the boys where we’re not judged and they can come along, be themselves, relax and have fun.'
Lorraine’s younger son has the last word: 'I thought the club was brilliant when I first came here and it still is. It’s the best club in the world!'