Tuesday 23rd May, 2017

Space to Grow

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A former volunteer with Romsey Mill’s Aspire programme for young people with Autistic Spectrum Conditions (ASCs) has just had a report published about girls with autism.

Rebekah Maguire, who volunteered for Romsey Mill before studying for her Masters degree, wrote a dissertation on the subject of belonging, focussing on the experiences of young girls with autism. Her work has now been published in the professional journal, Good Autism Practice.

One of her conclusions identifies a need for girls with autism to be able to engage in spaces with other girls on the autism spectrum.

This finding reflects current practice with Romsey Mill’s Aspire programme.

Ruth Watt, the Aspire Programme Coordinator said: “We have been running autism social groups for over twelve years. Initially, only boys were being referred but we soon started having one or two girls being sent in our direction, as well.”

“At first, we included the girls in with the boys groups but found that the girls felt they were struggling to belong. So we ran a girls group in parallel with one of our boys groups and then piloted our first girls-only group in 2011.”

Romsey Mill now has three weekly girls groups, spanning school years 5 to 12. After year 12, the young women are invited to the mixed Aspire Plus group.

Ruth said: “We have found that autism often presents very differently for girls and young women than it does for boys and young men, so shaping separate groups specifically for them gives a sense of understanding and belonging which they often don’t find elsewhere.”

She added: “One of the young women who has been with us for several years struggles with anxiety, and has not been in full time education since the age of fourteen. The Aspire girl’s group has given her a space to grow in confidence, where she can be herself, and make friends.”

The young women gave this quote, indicating how she felt about her Aspire group: “My anxiety is much lower while I’m here – it’s a fun and safe place to be. The workers are great and have really invested in me. My confidence has grown – I love talking with others and going out with the group”.

Would you like to volunteer to help with one of our Aspire groups? If so, please contact Ruth: ruth.watt@romseymill.org or ring 01223 213162.