Discovering that your child, or later as an adult, that you are on the autistic spectrum can be a frightening time. This was the case for Space4Autism’s CEO, Cheryl, who found herself in this position, with a young autistic child, long waiting lists for help and little support available.
Cheryl and another parent John McKellar wanted to find other parents in the same situation and searched for support groups, but nothing was available in the area. Undeterred and having found a handful of parents in a similar situation Cheryl and John started Space4Autism.
Starting off small, the charity used to meet in a pub or rent a room for meetings. It was in 2011 after starting their first social club for children that the charity really started to grow. PETT, Prism’s community support project, made an initial donation of two desktop PCs and a laptop in 2015 which empowered the charity to spread the word about their work and use the technology to assist with completing funding grants and communications.
Space4Autism has grown from strength to strength. In 2017 the charity moved to larger premises where today it has grown from 900 to 2,500 members (in just 18 months) and now has 23 staff and 89 volunteers.
The charity is a safe place for those with autism and their families and friends to come and just be themselves, without any judgement. Friends, siblings, parents and carers can come together and get immediate support, which is crucial if it’s been a challenging day.
If a family is struggling Space4Autism is there, every day and immediately. Everyone is welcome and it’s become the hub of not only the community, but many families travel many miles to access the support offered.
Space4Autism wanted to make IT equipment available to their members so that they could complete homework, job applications and forms for support or benefits with their support workers on hand to help with any issues.
PETT were keen to help and provided 10 desktop PCs and a laptop which are available to members in the internet café and other support areas.
Space4Autism also runs over 2,000 activities per year for members and their families. From cookery and creative arts through to therapy and social skills, the IT equipment provided helps Space4Autism publicise and manage their events.
But PETT’s support hasn’t stopped there. One aspect of autism is lack of direct eye contact or conversation. Acknowledging this was a challenge and the charity wanted to create a safe space where members could go for some quiet time without feeling isolated. The new Space Pod, with the help of PETT, has been constructed and kitted out with the latest technology which allows two-way conversation so that members can talk through any anxiety or problems they have through a big brother diary room style setting. They can click a button to speak and be spoken back to, but without the 1-2-1 pressure of communicating directly.
PETT were able to support the new Space Pod project via a donation of £5,700 towards the construction work and IT equipment needed, as well as providing the technical support to set everything up. This donation was possible as a result of PETT’s Winter Wonderland fund raising events and the generous donations of everyone attending.
Talking about PETT’s support, Cheryl said “PETT’s support from the outset has enabled us to progress. I honestly don’t think we would be where we are today without their support which has helped us grow as a charity and provide better services to our members. It’s lovely when the PETT team visit and can see the reality of the support they’ve given. The smiles on the children’s and parents faces say it all. We cannot thank PETT enough for what they have done for us and for our 2,500 members.”
Space4Autism have recently developed a training package for parents and carers who, after their initial diagnoses, are often left without any immediate support. Cheryl says, “There is still a long wait for parents to get a diagnosis but they will be able to access support for autism at Space4Autism. Through our training package, we hope to help the parents and carers across Cheshire get the much needed training they need immediately.”
If you would like to support Space4Autism or find out more, please visit www.space4autism.com
If you would like to find out more about PETT please visit www.pett.uk.com