Aspire is Romsey Mill’s work with autistic young people who are enrolled at mainstream schools, 

 The Aspire team runs weekly autism-friendly clubs that are attended by about 150 young people. In addition, the Aspire youth workers offer one-to-one mentoring and support for some of the young people attending the clubs.

Chris is one of the young people supported by the Aspire team.

Here is his story:


Chris loves coding and Minecraft.  

However, due to the way his autism affects him, he has always struggled to place importance on making friends. He was happy enough in his own company, even when he started attending an Aspire youth club.

He would sometimes speak to the Aspire youth club leaders, but more often than not could be found on his phone reading articles about coding. Although invited into activities he always declined. 

Aspire staff became part of Chris' education provision in 2021 as alternative education providers. He attended a bespoke computing course at college and Romsey Mill provided life skills and mentoring.

This programme has continued this academic year and the team have seen huge progress. With Aspire staff, Chris has practiced life skills such as getting around on public transport, buying things in a shop and visiting cafes. He has also used Minecraft to invent a town and creatively explore what shops and amenities are needed for day to day life.

Chris Aspire Minecraft

Over the 18 months of provision, Chris has worked alongside four members of the Aspire team. His mum expressed how positive this has been for him as he has been able to get used to different people.

At first, he struggled with recognising the team's faces and remembering names but now he greets all of us by name. In the youth club he will now occasionally join in activities and games with others.  

Last year, Chris' mum told the Aspire team: “Romsey Mill is an absolute blessing for my son".

Chris' mum said: "Where he has been unable to make lots of progress with making friends, he happily interacts with the others at the youth club and feels safe and secure there.

"This is a tremendous transformation from a young man who never wanted to leave home and interact with others, and who now looks forward to attending the youth club each week." 

In January, a new person came to try the youth club for the first time. Chris noticed that he was new, and struck up a conversation with him about his laptop, which he’d brought to the group.

The new group member went from looking lost and unsure, to smiling by the end of the session and saying he wanted to come back the next week. This was because of Chris, who had been instrumental in welcoming him.  

After the session, Chris’ mum told us, “He is very hopeful that the new person will want to be his friend and talked about him on the way home. This has NEVER happened before. I’m really proud of him.”  

The Aspire team is also proud of Chris and how far he has come in the time we have known him.

It demonstrates that Aspire’s youth clubs give the space and support to autistic children and young people to practice being around others, and to develop the skills to start and sustain friendships, combatting the loneliness that many experience.  

 Chris and Sarah in Aspire


Aspire supporters

Romsey Mill’s work with autistic young people is only possible due to support from a number of funders including the following organisations (2022/23):

  • Arm
  • The Baily Thomas Charitable Fund
  • Cambridge City Council
  • Cambridgeshire County Council
  • The Frank Litchfield General Charitable Trust
  • The Henry Smith Charity
  • Microsoft Ltd Research Fund
  • The Pye Foundation
  • The Strangward Trust
  • South Cambridgeshire District Council


Several individuals also make regular or one-off donations to support Aspire.

All of this funding helps us to maintain the existing level of support we offer through Aspire.

However, the Aspire team desperately wants to be able to respond to the unmet need that they see; as families contact them but are told that no further spaces are available at our Aspire clubs.

If you would like to partner with us, to help us develop the extent of our support for autistic young people and their families, and would be willing to make a one-off donation or become a regular donor, please go to