How a greenkeepr overcame his autism to find love and companionship
PUBLISHED: 15:06 04 May 2019 | UPDATED: 14:53 14 May 2019
Many people with autism will be able to relate to Steven Wood's story of being bullied at school and finding it hard to make friends.
Steven, who works as a greenkeeper at Bury St Edmunds Golf Club, said his autism means he struggles socially and he also finds reading, writing and maths difficult.
Autism is a developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others, and as it's a spectrum it affects people in different ways.
Steven, 43, from Bury St Edmunds, suffered with loneliness and lacked confidence, but he wanted to change his life.
He approached the Befriending Scheme charity in Sudbury, which provides friendship and learning opportunities for vulnerable people, to become a volunteer.
As a result, Steven became a one-to-one befriender to someone with Asperger syndrome - a form of autism - which has been a mutually beneficial pairing.
And thanks to his newly-found confidence Steven now has a girlfriend, Pamela Baller, who he also met through the charity.
He said: "The Befriending Scheme really helped me with my confidence to talk to people so it's easier and we got on so well through the scheme I decided to approach her and ask her out."
The couple are in the early days of their relationship at four months, but Steven said it's going well.
Looking back, he says school was a particularly challenging period in his life.
"I had a difficult time at school fitting in as I was bullied a lot," he said. "I didn't have the confidence to make friends. It was tough being bullied."
Steven, originally from Clacton, who went through both mainstream and special education, said he now has lots of friends who are supportive and understanding.
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To thank the Befriending Scheme for all its support, Steven has decided to walk 84 miles along the Norfolk Coast Path to raise cash for the charity.
Starting tomorrow at Hopton-on-Sea, he will walk to Hunstanton, taking in scenic spots as Cromer, Blakeney Point, and Cley, over a week.
His girlfriend Pamela will keep him company along some sections and he will stay overnight in his parents' caravan.
Steven said: "I wanted to give something back to the charity for all the support and kindness they have shown to me and to everyone else who uses the Befriending Scheme's services.
"The Norfolk Coast Path walk is a huge challenge, but I have always loved long-distance walking with my family and am really looking forward to it."
Shirley Moore, chief executive of the Befriending Scheme said: "We are so proud of Steven, and grateful to him for taking on this enormous challenge.
"Since he joined us as a volunteer he has shown such so dedication to improving people's lives, and now he's taking that even further with this sponsored walk. We're excited to follow his progress and help keep him motivated along the way!"
To sponsor Steven see here or call 01787 371333.
What is autism?
The National Autistic Society says those with autism see, hear and feel the world differently to other people.
All autistic people share certain difficulties, but being autistic will affect them in different ways.
Some also have learning disabilities, mental health issues or other conditions, meaning people need different levels of support.
For more information see here.