A Blackpool group is empowering people with autism to join together and support one another in daily life.
The group meet three times a week at the Blackpool Centre for Independent Living in an outdoor shed which they have made their own.
With 70% of adults with autism having a diagnosis of anxiety or depression, autistic people can go into what is called “shut down’’ mode which this group is helping to combat.
Rebecca Gregory, Mental Health Nurse and Julie Dalton, who specialises in autism and aspergers both work for the Primary Intermediate Mental Health team at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and have supported the group.
Rebecca said: “We offer a mental health service and the autism group is a referral only after they have been diagnosed or have been in the past with autism spectrum disorder.
“We support them with their needs and allow them to be empowered and to take ownership of their groups that are held in the ‘A shed’ and the outdoor garden area.”
Julie added: “The shed was named ‘A Shed’ from when it was in its initial stages and the group kept referring to it as ‘A Shed’. Now, the A stands for autism, so the shed belongs to the autism group to make it their own.
“The group is run by volunteers that have been approved by the National Autistic Society and is for adults who have been diagnosed with ASD. It is a drop in and allows people to meet, have a cuppa and socialise with likeminded people.
“The ages vary and we can get a variety of adults meeting from all different backgrounds.
“There is no other service in Blackpool to support people with autism so we are unique in what we offer here.
“The group is a huge success and our members have decorated the outdoor garden to enter the Blackpool in Bloom competition.
“They have entered the last two years and came second last year, but won in 2017 in conjunction with Blackpool Centre for Living Independent.
“Their work has been amazing and they have put their creative flair into making something amazing.”
One of the group members, Ellen Shakespeare, said: “I have been coming to the group for over five years and it has made such a huge difference to my life and wellbeing.
“Before I had this group of friends I wouldn’t leave the house as I felt so anxious and unconfident.
“The group has brought people together and we are like a family now.
“We are not judgemental and it is so important for us all to have this area to feel comfortable.
“We have learned a lot about each other but also about ourselves.”