Ok, so I don't normally blog mainly as I am
not much of a writer, but I have been asked a lot lately about the group. Many
members have been there right from the start, but 2 years on many members are
joining a larger, more established group, so I thought I would share a bit of
how it started.
In early 2011, my son had been officially
diagnosed a while by then, yet I felt really alone. I didn't know any other
parents with a child on the spectrum, the mainstream school situation we were in
wasn't good, and friends just didn't understand. Not being able to find what I
needed at the time, in terms of support that was accessible to me, I turned to
Facebook. I have always been a Facebook girl, so one afternoon I decided if I
couldn't find what I needed I would do it myself. So I started a Facebook group.
I needed something that I could access when I had time, and was convenient, I
remember thinking there has to be a few parents in Ashford like me. Well it
seems I was right, at nearly 250 members later!
The group started small, but steadily grew. It
was while I was pregnant with my second child, that those on group asked about
regular face to face meet ups. So that was what I did, not as easy as you would
first think, as I was told a few times an ASD specific group wasn't needed in
Ashford. Well I disagreed and it certainly wasn't true from the members of the
group at that time. Eventually I met with the Children's Centre in Ashford, they
were amazing, and without them we wouldn't of got started. So with a venue
sorted at The Willow Center, our monthly support group meetings started in June
2012. After a suggestion from a friend that a website might be a good idea, I
spent the summer putting one together myself, that was launched in the
September. I am always quietly proud of the website, not because it's the best
in the world, but because at the time it was something I thought I couldn't do.
For the first year the group ran entirely out
of my own pocket, the costs weren't high but they were adding up. So just before
Christmas of 2012 we began
fundraising for the first time, and were able to have a small kitty to
start the new year.
This year we have celebrated Autism awareness
day, with bubble blowing in the park, ran several lots of training for parents,
and continue to support parents where needed by email, phone and
It's become apparent recently that some people
assume there's several people running ASD Ashford, a natural assumption.
Although I am very blessed to have a few people around me who I am able to go to
and ask their opinions on things and who it has to be said have often had more
faith in my ability than I have at times, it is just me. Yes it keeps me busy,
yes it's hard work at times, would I change it? Not a chance!
Austin is a former actor/singer who in his spare time would volunteer and
work in and around many disabilities. Not happy with some of what he saw, Austin developed his own workshops.
His interest in autism grew from a friend that was on the ‘spectrum’. He
learned how to build strong bonds and understanding by putting himself in the shoes of the person he’s working with – seeing life from their point of view.
After suffering a serious head/brain injury in 2007 Austin was left with his
own disabilities which brought about a change in his career. Working within autism became his main focus as he trained and enjoyed working for the NAS.
He is currently Senior Behavioural Support and Training Officer for Anna Kennedy Online.
Austin has been delivering training with ASD Ashford over the last 2 years, and has helped many of our members. He has always been hugely supportive of what we do as group, and it's fair to say he has been taken to the hearts of our families.
It was with great pleasure that in February 2014, he came on board as our Patron.