Support and teamwork is the message behind a new autism networking group which is going from strength to strength in its first year.
Understanding Uniqueness Autism Support started life as an online forum for parents and carers of children on the spectrum to share struggles, good days, achievements and to seek advice.
Set up by mum, Marie Austin, it now has 280 members and hosts play sessions, events and monthly meetings in a Warwick children’s centre as its work continues to reach out and make a difference.
Launching new fortnightly play sessions at the Little Monkeys Funhouse this week, the mum of two said they are delighted with progress.
She said: “The first night of the play date was really amazing, we met some lovely people and the children where great.
“We hope this is the first of many events and Malcolm has been fantastic.”
I wanted to let other parents know they where not alone, there was a place for them to turn to if they needed a chat, advice or just someone to lend a friendly earMarie Austin
Centre owner, Malcolm Bumford, who has a history of working in health care, said is delighted to be able to help.
“The children have been really enjoying themselves, interacting and playing and having a great time which is what we want to see,” he said.
“And seeing a parent able to relax and have a cup of tea for what might be first time that day is just as important.”
Celebrating the success of a host of new projects for the team, Marie said it all started after she had life-changing support from the county council’s Integrated Disability Service (IDS) when her first son, Kai was diagnosed with autism.
And she wanted to make sure similar support networks were out there for every parent and child in need.
Marie, who was born and raised in Warwick, said: “Last year my eldest son was diagnosed with autism and sensory issues, it was a hard time for me, as it for every parent and can be a lot to take in.
“IDS changed my life and I made some new friends all in the same position as me.
“It was then that I wanted to set up a group for children with autism, sensory issues or on the autism spectrum.
“I wanted to let other parents know they where not alone, there was a place for them to turn to if they needed a chat, advice or just someone to lend a friendly ear.”
After getting good friends, Kat Williams and Ceri Durrant from IDS on board, the group was born and already has “overwhelming support” from its growing membership.
The team now has regular events put on by Sam Ramsay at The Girl With the Curly Hair autism project, who agreed to hosting talks for members in the Westgate Children’s Centre. From April, they will also have a room in the centre one Saturday every month in what members said was a “brilliant” step forward.
Looking to a busy future, Marie said: “This is just the start of things to come for us.
“We hope that more people and business will get on board and that we can reach out to many more families in Warwickshire.
“Things are going from strength to strength and we hope they continue that way.”
Find the group on Facebook to find out more.