Aspire is Romsey Mill’s work with autistic young people who attend mainstream schools. The Aspire team runs weekly autism-friendly clubs that are attended by around 150 young people. In addition, the Aspire youth workers offer one-to-one mentoring to many of young people who attend the Aspire clubs and offer support to their parents. 

Ruth Watt leads Aspire. Here, she shares some of the challenges that the young people are faced with, at this time, and describes how the team is supporting them.

Ruth Watt

Ruth says:

Many people are experiencing anxiety in the context of all that our world is currently facing. However, for autistic people, who are more prone to be anxious than others, this is amplified.  

Change is especially challenging for autistic people, and many are currently struggling more than usual with the additional pressures.   

We are witnessing heightened levels of anxiety amongst young people across all of our Aspire groups.

We see this in a number of ways, from those who are displaying signs of poor mental and emotional wellbeing; and talking to our youth workers about how they are feeling; to those who even more worried about going out and becoming increasingly isolated at home, including an increased reluctance to attend school.


Aspire’s support provides safe, friendly spaces for autistic young people in our clubs, where the young people can discuss worries with their youth workers and be heard, and also connect with other young people who are feeling the same as them. These safe spaces provide them with an assurance that helps them to build friendships and establish a caring support network. 

The benefit to the young people from attending Aspire is most keenly observed by their families; and is reflected in some of the feedback that the team has received from parents.

 Aspire Othello

Here is a sample of comments that the team has recently received:

  • “He feels he has somewhere he belongs and that the staff understand that what drives his behaviour is often anxiety”
"This is the only way for my child to form friendships” 
  • “Going to youth club has given her a sense of belonging” 

The importance of this sense of belonging for the young people is best captured in this comment from one young person, who recently said:

  • “The staff are comforting people and I feel like there’s a community here.” 

Last year, Romsey Mill’s Christmas Appeal sought to generate funds that could help to increase our support for autistic young people. You helped to raise over £20,000!

Thank you!

Together with funds awarded from successful applications for grant funding, we have been able to appoint a new team member, helping us to support more young people.

Aspire table smiles

However, there is still huge demand for places at Aspire clubs. Our team is currently handling over 100 enquiries from families of young people, seeking support.

We know there is a need to expand our provision and we will continue to explore ways to build our capacity, so that we can carry on providing Romsey Mill’s long-term, relational approach to autistic young people in an increasingly uncertain time. 


A safe and happy place

The extent of the anxiety being experienced by the young people, and the impact that the Aspire team is having in their lives is captured in this message we received form a parent:

“This club has been the best thing that has ever happened for our son. It is the one thing that he must never miss.

He has found a safe, happy place to visit each week and his confidence has improved immensely. He has struggled with making connections with peers and has been the victim of bullying throughout his primary years.

Due to this he has had some very low times and not wanted to be here anymore.

This club helps him to make connections with peers who 'get him' and feel secure in the knowledge that he won't be judged for just being himself.

He came out one night after finishing the club and said ' mum, I have met someone who is just like me and he gets me, it's like he is my twin'. He was so happy!"

"This club is a godsend and a vital part of my son's life, thank goodness a club like this exists with such amazing staff!!”  

To make a donation to support the work of Aspire click here