Parents and carers of children and young people with autism are being invited to join a local support group.

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability which affects how people communicate and interact with the world. More than one in 100 people are on the autism spectrum and there are around 700,000 autistic children and adults in the UK.

Embrace Autism WV was established in 2019 after a group of parents attended an autism awareness course run by the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Special Needs Early Years’ Service.

Pooja Tewari, one of the founding members, said: “As the course was coming to end, being new parents on this autism journey, it was difficult to know where to go and who to reach out to for support. Essentially, we had gained so much from learning together and supporting each other that we didn’t want the sessions to end!

“Debra Baker from the Special Needs Early Years’ Service offered us an amazing opportunity to come together and establish a support group so that we could empower other parents and carers and share our own experiences so that no one felt isolated.

“She was also able to help us by encouraging professionals to attend our support group, so that we could have a better understanding of what services there are out there, and we could reach out to for support.

“We now hold a coffee morning every 4 to 6 weeks and continue to invite various professionals to talk to us about the services they provide which could help an autistic child and their family.

“The sessions also allow us a time as parents and carers where we can enjoy refreshments and hold great conversations about autism, sharing our personal experiences in a supportive and safe environment.”

The group’s next coffee morning takes place on Thursday 18 January, 2024, at The Special Needs Early Years Service, Warstones Primary School, Warstones Road, Penn, from 9.30am to 11.30am. In the meantime, for more information, please email or search for ‘Embrace Autism WV’ on Facebook.

Parent carer Julie Haywood said: "The Embrace coffee mornings have been a lifeline for me as a SEND parent, providing a supportive and understanding community where I can share experiences, gain valuable insights and find comfort in the shared journey of navigating special educational needs. 

“The warm atmosphere and open conversations have not only offered practical advice but also created a space where I feel heard and embraced, reminding me that I’m not alone in facing the unique challenges of parenting children with special needs."

Rebecca Goodwin added: "I have been attending Embrace coffee mornings for a few years; the other parents that attend are very welcoming and are a great network of support – there is no judgement, just comfort, support and advice. 

“It’s also fantastic that we have guest speakers from different professions surrounding our children, we can ask any questions and get answers and support when we need it; this again is a great comfort to us parents."

Councillor Chris Burden, the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: "Around one in 100 people are autistic, but it's thought that that number could be even higher, with many people never formally diagnosed. 

“Embrace Autism WV is a place where people can connect with others on a similar journey, make new friendships, but also gain information and support from the parents and professionals who come along as guest speakers. 

“We are pleased that, as a council, we've been able to support the group to flourish, and they would very much like to invite new members to join them.”