Friday 18th October, 2019

Aspire team: A 'rock and a constant'

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“Aspire is like a rock, a real constant in my son's life; every week he looks forward to going. He feels safe and accepted at Aspire and is always happy to go.”


Children and young people with autism spectrum conditions (ASCs) are brave, brilliant, creative, funny and amazing. But the challenges they face mean that extra support and understanding is needed to encourage them to reach for their potential.

Romsey Mill’s autism-specific youth clubs, delivered as part of our Aspire programme, provide a safe, supportive and sensory-friendly environment for young people, with a diagnosis of autism and in mainstream schools, to be themselves, grow in confidence and to begin to flourish as young adults who have a unique and essential contribution to make to the world.

In 11 youth clubs across Cambridge and through other contexts, the team currently works directly with over 100 young people with autism, to grow life capabilities, enabling readiness for continuing learning, work and the everyday.


The Aspire Team

The team comprises Aspire Programme Co-ordinator, Ruth Watt, who has been with Romsey Mill since 2004; Youth Development Worker Thomas Keady, who has been part of the team since October 2018; and Tanya Kundu joined the team in a new part-time role, at the start of July.

From September, Sarah Baltensperger began a 20 hours a week student on placement with the team, whilst undertaking a Lay Ministry course at Ridley Hall, Cambridge. Kate Hall, who is a qualified child and adolescent psychotherapist, with three grown-up sons, each of whom is autistic, volunteers with the Aspire programme and is a valuable member of the team.


Over 100 young people supported

As our team has grown, we have had increased capacity to offer support, and many more young people have begun to attend our groups. For the first time, we now have over 100 children and young people attending Aspire’s weekly groups.


One to one support

Over the past year, the Aspire team also worked to support:

• young people who were disengaging from school or experiencing anxiety about school, and the transition to post-16

• those who were planning to attend university but whose families weren’t able to provide all the support needed

• a young person who was a victim of assault and needed support to navigate the system of being a witness in the court case

• a young person going through the bereavement of his main care-giver and all that living alone and managing a household entails. They were supported into employment for the summer months and in re-starting college in September.



The following feedback was received in the summer, after parents were surveyed by the local authority asking what outcomes they had seen in their child due to the activities they attended:

“She’s made friends!! She doesn’t feel the odd one out, and is happy”

“My son is happy socialising with others that he would not usually. He is trying new things and most importantly he is super happy attending.”

“This group is the highlight to his week and what gets him through. When children are mean to him at school his attitude has now shifted to a “I don’t care I’ll see my real friends soon, it’s just because I’m different.” He counts down the days till Tuesday so he can go to his group.”

“It has kept her from despair.”


If you would be interested in volunteering with our Aspire Programme, please contact us. ring: 01223 213162 or email: