The Wolverhampton Autism Group, which will be officially launched on World Autism Awareness Day (Tuesday 2 April), is free and open to anyone aged 18 or over affected by autism, either diagnosed or undiagnosed.
The idea for the group came about from the struggle that one Gazebo Talent Match client with autism had in trying to find appropriate support services and, in particular, anywhere to socialise comfortably. Joey Rist worked with his mentor to submit a successful bid for funding from National Lottery Awards For All to establish and support the group for 6 months.
Consultation has taken place with prospective members of the group, with people suggesting ideas for a range of activities, social trips and outings they would like to take part in, and the sort of help and support they would like to receive through the group.
Gazebo Chief Executive Pamela Cole-Hudson said: "We are proud to launch the new Wolverhampton Autism Group and, in addition to providing support and appropriate social opportunities to local people, we hope it will raise awareness of the experiences of people affected by autism and encourage employers and others to recognise value and ensure equal opportunities for all.
"Over the next 6 months, we intend to demonstrate the effectiveness of the group and the positive impact it is having on people's lives so that we can attract further funding and support for it to continue in the longer term."
She added: "Joey identified at the outset that an important objective of the group should be to provide pathways for its members into leadership roles.
“With this in mind, the group will be facilitated by experienced professionals from Gazebo, working alongside Joey and other volunteers who are themselves affected by autism. As a result, we hope they will gain the skills themselves to facilitate groups, and Joey already has exciting aspirations to grow Wolverhampton Autism Group into something that can be replicated elsewhere in the future."
David Watts, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Director of Adult Services, said: "We are delighted that Gazebo Theatre in Education is launching this new social group, which will provide vital support to adults with autism. It is great that it has come about thanks to the drive and determination of people with autism, and that they will be playing such an important role in the group going forward."
The group will be officially launched on Tuesday from 4.30pm and will then meet weekly on Tuesdays from 6pm to 8pm at The Gazebo Hub, Chancel Court, 2 Wellington Road, Bilston WV14 6AA. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01902 497222.
For details of other local help and support services for people with autism and their families, please visit the Wolverhampton Information Network.
World Autism Awareness Day is part of World Autism Awareness Week, which runs from 1 to 7 April. For more details, please visit the National Autistic Society website.