Head of Stowmarket autism club gets members ready for independent life
- Credit: Archant
Sometimes it is the little things in life, such as food shopping, buying a train ticket or going to the cinema, which are taken for granted.
And that’s where the ASD Saturday Club in Stowmarket, a group which supports families and children with an autistic spectrum disorder, comes in, says 47-year-old Vicki Lee, its co-chairman and volunteer.
The group, which meet at the community hub in Crown Street, has weekly and monthly groups that give young people fun activities to do, teach them life skills around coping in the wider world.
More importantly, Ms Lee says, it gives parents and carers some respite from the full-time care they provide for their loved ones, often for free.
She said: “Some people must be really exhausted and run down and we’re helping to steer them in the right direction.
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“We try to make the experience about self-empowerment and moving the young people that attend into adulthood.”
Ms Lee discovered the club when her son William was diagnosed with autism aged 12.
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She was looking for somewhere which was providing something fun and interesting for her son and the Saturday Club had a great offering of activities and life skills for people like William who can feel very anxious in some social situations.
Now William is 15 and is a regular attendee at the club, learning skills like with computers and meeting other young people experiencing the same challenges.
Ms Lee said: “In 2016 we lost a major funding source and the long-standing chairman of the club’s committee stepped down.
“Myself and my co-chairman Russell Langley took over the club and with the support of our volunteers we have managed to secure three more years of funding which is just brilliant.
“If it wasn’t for them and our club manager, Leah Bower, we would never be able to support young people the way we do.”
The club is in high demand, with attendees from as far as Ipswich and Diss and a waiting list for their weekly Saturday club and the monthly clubs for children as old as 18, who take regular trips in the safe environment of the club to learn how to do things like shop and cook for themselves.
Ms Lee’s volunteering is all-consuming - before speaking to us she was meeting with another parent of the club to discuss what entitlements and benefits are available to their children as they get older and embark on more independent lives.
“It’s not something that we offer as the Saturday Club, but we’re a community of parents and we always try to help each other,” she added.
The ASD Saturday club of Stowmarket are always fundraising and have a festive double feature movie night at the Regal in Stowmarket on Friday November 30.
Tickets are available for showings of The Polar Express and Home Alone on the cinema website.
The event is funded in part by the East of England co-Op.