Essex has one of the largest populations of people affected by Asperger syndrome in the country. Asperger syndrome is often poorly understood by health, mental health, education and social services professionals and as a result families are left isolated, dealing with unusual and difficult behaviour with little or no support.
In 1997 a group of parents of children with Asperger syndrome got together to try and do something to improve the situation for themselves and other families in Essex and started the parent support group ‘Supporting Asperger Families in Essex’ (SAFE).
Supporting Families Across Essex
Since our first meeting in April 1997 we have been in contact with nearly 1000 families. We have a parent support group in the south of the county and plans are under way to set up a further one to support parents in the north of Essex. Our membership is drawn from Essex, the southern half of Suffolk and the northern fringes of London.
In addition to monthly meetings, we provide an email helpline. We run regular social skills training programmes, two adult support groups, two youth groups and social events for all ages. We campaign for better services and understanding for people with Asperger syndrome and their families around the county.
As a parent support group we have many years’ experience of the problems faced by individuals with Asperger syndrome of all ages, and families of people with Asperger syndrome and related conditions. Our members include adults with Asperger syndrome and their families. The majority of SAFE’s members are families who have at least one person affected with Asperger syndrome or High Functioning Autism. The combined experience of our members is our greatest asset. Together we empower each other to enable our members to network, access services and to live fulfilling lives in a social world.
Campaigning for Better Understanding
Since 1997 we have been working with education, health, employment, mental health, police and social care services in Essex with the aim of increasing awareness of the issues facing individuals with Asperger syndrome as well as improving provision and encouraging service providers to direct resources to our Asperger community. We deliver Asperger awareness training sessions and attend many local and national meetings where we feel the Asperger case should be highlighted.
Our aim is to support and encourage the professionals who deal with our Asperger community, to help them understand the condition and to develop effective strategies and services.
Making a Difference
There is still a long way to go, Asperger families are isolated. Children with Asperger syndrome face many difficulties at school. Adults with Asperger syndrome also feel isolated and often find it very difficult to manage the complicated social environment of work. We need your help to make things better.