Paisley autism group celebrates its success at special night

A social group for adults with autism has celebrated its achievements since it began four years ago.

Fiona Milne set the group up to support her son David who has autism and had recently left school.

She spoke to other parents in similar situations and the teens starting meeting regularly at Blend coffee shop in Paisley.

Now there are 11 regular attendees, and a further six on a waiting list, and the group has moved into brand new premises at the Finding Your Feet charity hub in Paisley.

To celebrate their move and their achievements, they held a special awards night and had a drumming session with parents and carers invited along to watch.

Fiona said: “We held an evaluation survey a few weeks ago and asked parents and the young adults how they felt before they started at the group, and how they feel now.

“We asked them things like feeling happy, included, content and spending time with mates. Of the young adults, 64 per cent said they felt better now than they did before.

“And the parents said they’d seen an improvement too. This is something that’s affecting the whole family.

“For a wee project that runs for a couple of hours a week, that’s pretty special. We’re giving people the chance to feel included and make friends.

“It’s all about learning how to improve and develop things.”

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The social group, now called the Renfrewshire Autism and Neurodiversity Project, meets on Tuesday evenings. Fiona said the activities are often guided by the participants and include things like bingo, arts and crafts and dominoes.

They decided to hold an awards ceremony for all the participants to recognize how far many of them have come, with Marie from Renfrewshire Carers Center invited along to hand over the certificates.

Fiona said: “David didn’t get much recognition and praise at school so this was important to us. We gave them all a certificate of excellence for participating in the group. The delight on their faces was lovely, they were so proud.

“It’s something we’re going to do every year.”

Local drumming leader Tom Chalmers, who already works with some of the group members, held a fun drumming session at the special event.

The members enjoyed a fun drumming session

Some of the young adults attending the group have said they enjoy going along to get the chance to hang out with their friends, they always feel included, and enjoy taking part in the different activities.

Fiona said: “David didn’t have any friends when he left school I saw there was a lack of occupational and social inclusion for people like him with autism.

“I spoke to a couple of other parents and that’s how the project started.

“It has evolved from a small group into a growing community where individuals are treated with respect and are involved in all aspects of the project.

“It’s a lovely feeling to have made a difference. I feel like I’m doing my bit for society and it’s lovely to see the adults relaxing and to see them grow.”

Dr Thom Kirkwood, an advocacy inclusion specialist who works with the group, added: “I have been the group’s independent advisor for four years. For me it has been great to see this group develop, the way it has become meaningfully inclusive, not just for group members but beyond, ensuring learning and voices are fed into the wider arena to improve policy and practice.

“They have become the unofficial, but much-needed, hub of knowledge and interface in Renfrewshire.

“It is the smallest community organizations that have the most significant impact. Great work and long may it continue.”

To find out more about the group, email [email protected]

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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