Wednesday 24th November, 2021

Aspire changes

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Aspire changes

Romsey Mill's Aspire currently supports 150 autistic young people (9 – 18 year olds) in Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire who are in mainstream education, and their families. Aspire is the only provision of its type in Cambridgeshire, and so we also want to be able to help those who are not yet able to access any support.

Our weekly Aspire youth clubs create a safe and welcoming social space for autistic young people to interact at a level at which they are comfortable. We offer a high ratio of support from committed volunteers. Young people come to relax and be themselves, and to do things that they enjoy and talk with our experienced youth workers about anything, including their interests and any difficulties they have experienced that week.

Our Aspire youth workers also offer one-to-one support for young people attending the youth groups. We focus on issues identified by the young person and help them find and practice strategies to manage. These issues include support for participation and learning. We also provide practical advice and support to parents with completing application forms for Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP); and can assist and advocate for them at meetings with their child’s school and other professionals.

Ruth Watt, Romsey Mill’s Aspire Coordinator said:

"The number of young people attending Romsey Mill’s Aspire groups has continued to grow. We are now supporting 150 autistic young people in mainstream education, and their families, across Cambridgeshire; with many more on our waiting lists."

"The last 18 months have exacerbated some of the struggles already experienced by many families where one or more member has an autism diagnosis, and constantly changing rules have caused added anxieties."

"Here is how we’ve managed to keep supporting one family over the last year:


Sarah* (*not her real name) has five children, all on roll at different schools, and four of whom have special needs. 

Her eldest, Paul* (*not his real name), began attending an Aspire group, before the pandemic. He quickly bonded with youth worker Thomas, who was able to talk to him about video games and other interests. Paul is a school refuser and was not attending school for the majority of 2020 and early 2021. He now has a place at a new school, and the Aspire team continued to support him and his family as he settled into this new school placement.

The team has given Sarah extensive support to help her manage communication with 5 different schools and has advocated for her as she has often felt let down and overwhelmed by services.

When the pandemic hit, our team maintained contact with the family and offered support and practical help such as foodbank vouchers.

In May, Sarah’s second child was diagnosed with autism after a long wait and several months of poor mental health and school refusal. Due to the existing relationship with the family, he was able to begin attending an Aspire group straight away with his brother, meaning that Sarah has around two hours a week where two of her children are out of the house, offering some level of partial respite. Both boys love coming to the group and look forward to it every week. It provides a constant for them when their school attendance and mental health have struggled.

Sarah said “Both of them love the group and they can be themselves. It has helped them to grow within themselves. Romsey Mill’s Aspire team has supported me and my children when other services struggled to know how.”