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All About Aspie

ASPIE is a social self-help and motivation group for adults with Asperger’s Syndrome and their families, based in Worcester. Julia Micklewright is a trustee and tells us more.

How did ASPIE came about?
ASPIE was founded by my daughter Sarah who ‘got through’ school, college and university before being diagnosed with Asperger’s during accountancy training. Understanding the complexities of the condition, knowing how difficult it is to make friends and discovering a dearth of suitable opportunities where Aspies can meet and find acceptance, led her to set up ASPIE. We launched on 28 September 2011 and received charitable registration in January 2012. Adults with Asperger’s are highly intelligent but sometimes unable to communicate easily and can encounter numerous problems. They are often bullied particularly through early life, and although some are able to fit in, others do not and become withdrawn and isolated, unable to cope with everyday living.

How many members do you have?
We have a database of 150 adults. Our growing membership includes adults from all walks of life from most Worcestershire towns, and, because they tell us there is no other group like us, from Birmingham, Coventry and Hereford with some travelling considerable distances to be with us. The age range is between 18 and 70 with about 25 to 35 attending each week. The success of ASPIE is important because for so long adults with Asperger’s, a hidden disability, have been forgotten. From our experience the most important need for adults with Asperger’s is acceptance, friendship and a sense of belonging, closely followed by employment and a desire to make a contribution to the community.

What sorts of activities do you offer?
Primarily we are a social group where adult members with Asperger’s do not have to ‘pretend to be normal’. Our building is light and airy with several rooms ideal for splitting into different groups for computer/internet access, discussions, games, boxing on the Wii console and importantly a quiet room. The low pressure environment, tailored to their needs, allows them to breathe, joining in, if they wish and at their own pace, board games, discussions and quizzes, and meals out.

We are fortunate in having an excellent Australian psychologist who is able draw out members or help them address their issues on a one-to-one basis and we provide practical and emotional support at any time to members’ families.

In what practical ways does your work improve lives?
We must be doing something right as many of our members have been with us since we opened in September 2011 and others travel considerable distances to be with us on Wednesdays.

Members report acceptance of themselves, reduced meltdowns, reduced depression, less anxiety and self-harm. We’ve noticed a marked improvement in their confidence, wellbeing and motivation which transfers to other areas of their lives. Some have returned to university courses, others have either returned or remained in employment or gained apprenticeships. Friendships are being formed and members meet outside the group. We also see improvements in family relationships, and help on the occasions when a diagnosis leads to tensions within families. Parents and family members find much needed relief and support enabling them to carry on coping.

ASPIE meets every Wednesday 1pm to 9pm at 26 Sansome Walk, Worcester WR1 1LX.
For more info, you can contact them by calling (01905) 27825, or visit their website.