Wednesday 10th October, 2018

Moving on

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Eight young men and women who have been part of Romsey Mill’s Aspire programme for the past decade, are now successfully moving on to the next stage of their lives.

The Aspire programme provides safe social spaces and support for young people in mainstream education between school year 5 and age 19, who have a diagnosis of autistic spectrum conditions (ASCs).

The young people who attend the groups know they will find other people just like them and are free to take part in activities of their choice, where they are supported to build and maintain meaningful friendships, that last for the whole of their time at Aspire, and beyond.

Ruth Watt, who leads the Aspire programme said: “For young people with ASCs, change can be overwhelming, and periods of transition in their lives can be particularly difficult. Some can also experience a complexity of mental health issues. Our work is all about helping them to be themselves, build friendships and be equipped to deal with the big transitions in their lives. This is achieved by establishing long term relationships of trust and confidence, which takes place over many years.”

Ruth added: “Whilst it is always sad when these amazing young people come to the end of their time with us, aged 19, there is also a great sense of pride in what they have achieved and their improved confidence to move on with their lives.”

Young people with autism spectrum conditions (ASCs) can participate in Romsey Mill's Aspire programme from the age of 9 years until the summer after their 19th birthday.

Aspire Plus is designed for young people aged 17-19 years, to enable them to develop friendships, practice social skills and prepare for more independent living as adults, in groups that provide a safe and secure, autism friendly environment.

And one of the important activities for the young people in the Aspire Plus group is the annual summer residential trip, which allows them the opportunity to practice those skills in a way that is not always possible in the normal context of the group setting.

 One of the young men who has been part of Aspire for nearly ten year, Ben, is going on to study a retail course at Cambridge Regional College and hopes to volunteer with Romsey Mill in the future.

Reflecting on his time with Aspire, Ben said: "I made some new friends at Aspire. The groups helped me to feel more confident and try new things. I enjoyed doing trips to local cafes and learning how to buy things.  There was a greater number of helpers and it was easier to get support if you needed it than it was on days out at school or college. The staff at Aspire are very helpful and easy to talk to about worries.”

Speaking about the Aspire Plus summer residential trips, for those aged 17-19 years, Ben said: "They were fun days out. I enjoyed playing crazy golf and getting fish and chips. We had a campfire at the residential centre and that was a new experience for me."

Ben’s mum, Lisa, added: "Ben used to refuse to attend school trips because he found them too busy or stressful but when he went away with Aspire I knew he would feel more comfortable.”

She added: “Over the ten years of Ben attending Aspire's weekly groups, it gave him an opportunity to have a social life. Young people like Ben who have autism can be vulnerable and can find having a social life difficult. With Aspire he had a safe place to help him find his feet. He had a chance to discover what he likes to do and how to socialise and practice his skills in different environments.  The groups also helped him find his own ways of dealing with stress and anxiety, which will all help him hugely in the future."


Ben is pictured below eating fish and chips next to Dan, another young person who is leaving Aspire this summer to go to University. Dan has been volunteering with Romsey Mill, helping to count money from our charity pots. Ben and Dan knew each other before attending Aspire, but over their time in Aspire they have become great friends.