– by Yvonne

I started my group 3 years ago, to help my autistic adult son have somewhere to go and socialise in a safe, happy and friendly environment. He enjoys listening and singing to his favourite music.

After many years of trying different groups and organisations, with the hope they may help him build friendships, and improve his confidence and social skills. We could not find any that took into consideration his complex issues and difficulties, of him not being able to cope in certain situations. Families/carers who live or work with people with autism will understand the many issues that can cause distress/upset to a person who is autistic.

Having taken my son out of the education system when he was young, because he needed a great deal of individual time and attention to cope with the many extreme difficulties he had in everyday life. I made the decision to try and learn as much as I could about his condition and how it affected him.

After many very difficult years of finding out what didn’t work for him, I began to learn what was helping him. Having come out of the system, you are alone and isolated. It meant an enormous amount of time searching for help and information, and a consequence of that isolation was not only my son’s social skills were affected, but mine too. I am writing a book about those years.

The problems, hardships and heartaches, trying to cope with everyday life, whilst finding ways to help my son to have ‘some quality of life’.

He liked to sing at home to me, and people he was familiar with. I then had the idea of trying to take his singing ‘out of the house’, and into a new environment. I began to look for a suitable room to hire. When I did find one, I had to introduce the idea to my son and get his reaction. At first he didn’t want to even go to this ‘new’ room. After a few weeks of talking to him about singing in another room, he finally came along to try it.

It was just myself, partner and another friend. We set up his CD player, microphone and speakers, then encouraged him to sing along. He was very unsure for a number of weeks. I began to doubt the idea of it all. Then one week he chose to pack his music things into the car, which was a real turning point. He decided he wanted to go and sing.

We carried on in the same way for a few months. Introducing people that he knew one by one. He was becoming more settled, and then I decided to find out if other adults with similar or other disabilities would like to join us.

My intention was to have a small group where they could get to know each other and build on their social skills. Because they are all different, I came up with the name Uniquely Me and U.

The people that have come to our group have grown in confidence and their social skills in an activity they all enjoy. Listening and singing to their favourite music is having a positive effect and outcomes.

Whilst developing our music group, I decided to introducing an art group on another day. Art has a calming effect, and the group has developed into a very creative session where they can express themselves through the variety of materials, paints, colours. They have had their art displayed at the local library and taken part in Tamworth’s celebrations of Athelflaed. Where a very large mosaic was completed with the help of local groups/schools. It was displayed in the castle grounds.

Uniquely Me and U has grown over the 3 years, not in numbers, but in the development of those who have enjoyed being part of our ‘team’. I had no idea that at the start with just my son, would now 3 years later become a group that is having such wonderful outcomes for those that join us.

We are a voluntary run group offering a much needed service in our area. We rely on donations from kind individuals and organisations for funding to cover our running costs.

We have our motto that we aspire to:

Love me, Respect me, In me believe,

Given opportunity, I will achieve.

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