Sunday 20th December, 2020

Providing a lifeline during the pandemic

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"Aspire has been a lifeline...."

Romsey Mill’s work with children and young people with autism, who attend mainstream education, continued to grow going into 2020.

We delivered 11 separate autism-friendly weekly groups across Cambridge and in surrounding areas, supporting 130 young people, so they could enjoy positive activities, grow in confidence, and strengthen vital communication and other social skills.

Our Aspire Plus groups for older teenagers (17- 19 years) also supported 25 young people, enabling them to spend enjoyable and purposeful time together and gain indispensable skills and crucial experience to help prepare them for situations they will encounter as adults.

Covid-19 restrictions had an immediate and dramatic effect on these young people, leading to greater demand for our service. Any change causes great unrest and anxiety for those with autism. The loss of familiar safe settings and face to face contact with our Aspire staff and volunteers placed them at increased risk of mental health issues, increased stress and challenge in the home, and the potential for increased withdrawal and self-isolation.

During lockdown, our Aspire team continued to provide support to over 100 of the most vulnerable young people through a range of virtual and digital communications, including new online groups that they had started to run. Over the summer, they also met with some of the young people on a one-to-one basis, in Covid-safe settings.

From September, the groups resumed on a face-to-face basis, with smaller numbers to ensure compliance with social distancing requirements. All of this has enabled our team to strengthen the fundamental relationships which http:// underpin the support we offer to young people with autism, and their families. Also, we have had increased demand for support from new families, and we have started a brand-new online group in an area of South Cambridgeshire where we had not previously been working.

 Here are some of the positive comments that our Aspire team received from parents and young people, about the vital support they provided since the start of the pandemic.

From parents:

• He was so happy that Aspire was on. It’s a real lifeline for him so thanks for keeping it going.”

• “I think the WhatsApp group is an excellent idea – may encourage them in different ways to communicate with each other. Thank you so much for providing all of this support for them – it is very much appreciated.”

• “Thank you so much for the call and checking in with us. I am very grateful.”

• “It’s good him having people to talk with other than family.”

• “You really make so much of a difference to their lives! We are all so grateful to you”

• “Thanks for keeping the boys connected as I know it means a lot to T at the moment”

• “Thank you so much for the weekly calls - it means a lot to him and therefore to all of us that you are able to spend time with him like this.”

• "He is looking forward to next week already... and I thought that we'd have to coax him in. I have never, ever seen him so excited to be interacting with people on the same level before (we are used to managing the conversation, but its based around him) It was fabulous to watch." (This was about a new young person who has been engaging with a group for the first time)

• “[Our son] is finding group very beneficial during these unsettling times; we really appreciate the time and effort by you all into keeping it going. Thank you to you all”

• “I wanted to thank you as well for the Thursday groups. We have been worried about him since lockdown, as he has been left with nothing to do since exams were cancelled and he is spending far too much time gaming! He loves the Thursday Zoom meetings and they are so good for his mental health. It really lifts his spirits as he always comes downstairs in such a good mood and full of conversation. It’s lovely to see.”

• “Thanks for your continued support, now more than ever.”

• “The sessions gave him something to look forward to when there was very little he could do. It gave him time ‘away’ from just family and he could keep in touch with those in his group when he wasn’t seeing any peers - especially when he did not return to school over the summer term.”

• (From a parent who has two sons attending Aspire) “We feel both boys received excellent support. They both got to keep in touch with friends and continue playing games together. My younger son got to know his group as he had only just joined Aspire. The groups ensured a small break for the rest of the family. The support was fantastic and I can’t think of any improvements”

• “He engaged with the zoom sessions when most other things did not work for him. He did not talk to his family or his psychologist during lockdown so these were the only safe spaces he had to talk.”

• “At any time - but especially during lockdown - this service gave A the continued support and friendship from staff and his friends without this lifeline he would have felt very isolated and always has group to look forward to every week it’s something A enjoys very much and not having very many opportunities to socialise it really is an important element in his life. He has enjoyed logging in the play games and do quizzes and chatting and having that social time with everyone. We are very happy with the service Romsey Mill offer.”

• “A Lifeline!! Henry was due to do his A Levels this summer and was left with nothing to do for the entirety of lockdown. He spent most of his time in his room and didn’t want to leave the house and he was really quite down. The Aspire sessions were amazing and lifted his spirits, it was so lovely to see his change in mood after these sessions and were the highlight of his week. He has become closer to the group since these sessions too. He really enjoyed the sessions as mentioned previously and enjoyed the online quizzes etc they did. They have also organised their own online quizzes/games outside the sessions. You did a fantastic job!! Thank you!

• ‘I just wanted to thank you for the lovely phone call my daughter had with you last week. She really enjoyed talking about her family and the things that are important to her. Not many people give her the chance to do this and really listen, I think often she strays off the relevant conversation early on and then doesn’t get a chance to say how she feels. From my end it was a lovely chat which gave her a boost so thank you!!’

• “Not many things continued during lockdown so you gave stability and some certainty for us during a very challenging period. My daughter really looked forward to taking part in the sessions. There was laughter again.”

• “It gave my son something to do that was away from his siblings and parents.”

• “Phone calls helped my daughter with keeping regular social contacts. She was able to chat to someone else about things and often found this really helpful, especially on the weeks she was struggling. My daughter also attended a virtual group, which was her only real social contact over lockdown. This gave her something else to talk about, and a very welcome distraction from the current pandemic. As a family we felt really supported with Aspire checking in and being a consistent familiar support. It was really great to still receive support despite lockdown. Thank you!”

• Aspire has been a lifeline for T during the COVID pandemic. Especially so during lockdown when all support from school vanished. It has helped him keep important connections between valuable friendships. He has really looked forward to the virtual sessions that have been well organised and coordinated. We are as ever very grateful to the team for keeping some normality and structure to his life at a time when many disabled young people have been forgotten. T reports having initially been anxious about moving online but now finds it enjoyable and loves seeing his friends and the fun that brings.”

• “It enabled my son to chat and connect with his friends. He really looked forward to the zoom catch up, he really enjoyed the games, quizzes etc. In a time where school just finished, life turned upside down it was nice for him to have some normality, something familiar to look forward to. I think he was supported really well.”

• The sessions allowed our daughter to stay in touch with her Aspire group. We feel that this group has offered her a sense of belonging and an avenue for support when she needs it. The current situation is stressful for our children especially with the changes to routine, isolation and insecurity regarding many aspects of their lives. With limited access of support due to Covid, I feel that the need for Aspire is more pressing.

• “It gave him a chance to interact with others whilst in lockdown in a supported way. He struggles with group conversations so being part of one that was monitored helped him practise these social skills and stopped him being so isolated. Thomas (youth worker) has built a great rapport with him through this group and individual chats. It's nice to know you were there and thank you for the extra support you have shown him with his transition to college. It's been really beneficial.”

• “By definition our children do not have such well-developed social networks and his risk of isolation and boredom was therefore high. I believe the contact therefore aided stability and some level of normality. From this point it was more likely he would be motivated to continue with school work etc. I am aware the sessions were tricky at times but staff adapted them according to children’s needs and interests. It must be appreciated this was a tall order. Thanks.”

From young people:

• “It was nice to stay in touch with my friends. The sessions helped my anxiety over lockdown. It would have been better if there were more games we could play. Thank you very much for hosting them, I was going a bit insane over quarantine and it helped me have fun.”

“I was anxious at first about having the group online but now I enjoy it and I love seeing my friends. I feel my friendships with others in the group are stronger because of the online sessions. We were given breakout rooms which made it more like the original sessions where we would split into different groups.”

• (From someone who only just started attending a group before lockdown): “The online sessions helped me feel less lonely and kept me going through a difficult time. They made me feel more hopeful. I am excited to get back to the in-person youth club. They gave me the ability to socialise with people I haven’t met before nor knew much about.”

• “Thank you very much for hosting the online sessions, I was going a bit insane over quarantine and it helped me have fun.”

• “The sessions helped me stay in touch with people outside my house.” Please support our Christmas Appeal. 

 

Please support our Christmas Appeal. Every pound that you donate will make a huge difference in lives of local young people, children and families.

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to our Christmas Appeal.