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Befriending Service Walsall

Impact Report: September 2012 - April 2013


I like my befrienders and it’s nice to be out without mum and dad – having the befrienders helps.

Feedback from the Befriending Project service users

I found some of the people at the group a bit annoying, but I understand now that I shouldn’t judge them for that – it’s how they act and I am learning to accept that.

My favourite part of the befriending project is meeting new people who have the same condition as me

“Walsall Befriending Service is the only means of support I get to help with my autism. This support is vital to helping me stay in contact with the outside world.


What is befriending? Walsall Befriending Project is a free service available to adults with a diagnosis of autism or Asperger syndrome. It is all about creating opportunities for friendship, fun, sharing, challenges and personal development for adults with autism who live in Walsall.

Our aims are:

To provide opportunities for people with autism to meet others with a diagnosis on the autism spectrum

To provide opportunities for people with autism to meet other people who share similar interests

To help people with autism improve their social skills

To help increase the self-confidence of people with autism

To help people with autism to avoid isolation

To teach people with autism strategies for understanding and managing their own autism

To help increase the independence of people with autism

This is achieved through monthly individual sessions and monthly group sessions.

Individual sessions Once a month, two volunteer befrienders will join the person with autism to do activities which they have expressed an interest in doing, or would like support with. Past examples of sessions include meeting for a coffee and a chat, going bowling, going shopping, going to the cinema, going to the theatre, playing computer games, going for a walk, going to a football game, playing pool and going swimming. Activities differ for each service user according to their interests and preferences.

Group sessions Once a month, each person with autism will be invited to a group session with the Befriending Project. This is a chance to meet other people with autism who are part of the Befriending


Project. The Service Coordinator and a group of volunteers run the group sessions. These sessions alternate between activity-based sessions and topic-based sessions. Group sessions aim to improve social skills, build a peer group for the group members, and improve confidence in a group setting. Past sessions include going to the cinema, going bowling, talking about how to make friends, and talking about the different types of friendships and relationships that exist.

Case studies The Befriending Project is having a real impact on the people we work with and their families. These three examples give you an idea of the impact the Befriending Project can have:

John’s story When I first met John* (22 years old), he never opened the front door, was unwilling to travel alone, struggled to make conversation, and when he did make conversation, it tended to be related to the same topics. He also jumped from topic to topic without any real logic. Since meeting his two befrienders, he now travels on public transport alone to sessions, and is able to hold lengthy conversations about a much broader range of topics.The conversation flows much better than it did. He now opens the door for his befrienders every session, and has even been known to be waiting at the door before his befrienders have knocked! His volunteer befrienders have also noticed that he now has a more open, relaxed body language during sessions, as he used to hide behind his hair. His mum commented:

“Every time they come, he is much more cheerful and smiley. He comes down to answer the door and to see them off, and is always in a really good mood afterwards.�


George’s story George* (22 years old) was a very quiet and anxious young man when I met him. He was unable to hold a conversation, as he would always answer with a “yes” or “no”, and it was difficult to get him to elaborate on anything you asked him. He also never asked any direct questions to others unless he was prompted. He was very reliant on his mum and dad – he wouldn’t do anything without making sure first that they were there with him. Since joining the Befriending Project, he has started answering questions in a lot more depth, and asking questions about his befrienders and in response to a topic they have been talking about. He is learning to take turns in conversation, rather than the befrienders having to initiate all of the conversation. His confidence has dramatically improved – he is now relaxed when he goes to both individual and group sessions, he always initiates conversation with others at the group sessions, and he really looks forward to his individual sessions with his befrienders. His parents have noticed a real increase in his independence – he now goes out alone to put the rubbish out without asking his parents to come with him.

Harry’s story Harry* (18 years old) had never travelled alone anywhere before joining the Befriending Project. He also used to struggle with any unexpected changes – this would make him extremely anxious. Now he is comfortable with his befrienders, he has begun walking alone to meet them for some of the sessions, something he has never done before. When asked how he felt doing this, he said he felt really “grown up”, and his mum was really excited that he is developing his levels of independence. He has also become comfortable enough with his befrienders that he is able to cope with some unexpected changes. For one of his individual sessions, he had planned go to the train station to watch the freight trains, but when he arrived at the station with his befrienders, the station was closed as there was maintenance work on the line. Instead of becoming anxious and upset, he stayed calm and was able to choose a different activity for the session instead.


Statistics Target

Actual

(for end April)

(as of 30th April)

Number of service users

14

22

Number of volunteers

42

24 fully trained Some are paired with multiple service users and an additional 13 have been interviewed and are waiting to complete training in June.

Not only do we take on people with autism as service users for the project, for those people who are confident to do so, we also offer volunteering opportunities. We currently have two fully trained volunteers who have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum. We have a further four people who have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum waiting to come to training with us – they should be fully trained in June. The project offers people on the spectrum the opportunity to gain some voluntary experience and pass on some of their knowledge and experiences to other volunteers and service users. Our volunteers who have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum have talked about giving something back, helping people so they don’t have to experience quite so many of the difficulties they experienced in the past, and using their personal experiences to help not only service users, but also other volunteers to understand autism better.

Gender split of volunteers

Gender split of service users

Age range of service users


Considering my son was diagnosed when he was young, this is the first real support he has had. It’s the best thing that has come to Walsall.

Feedback from parents of the Befriending Project service users

It’s a fantastic service. My son really enjoys his sessions. He’s much more social. I have been really impressed with the service, it has been a fabulous opportunity for my son to meet new people. He has enjoyed his first outing with his volunteers to Cadbury World. I hope this project continues, as there is a significant need, in order to support young people with Autism. Brilliant work by Emma and her team. If it wasn’t for the Befriending Project, my son would be stuck in the house 24/7 and in trouble all the time


About Autism West Midlands There are more than half a million people in the UK living with autism, an invisible, misunderstood and lonely disability. 60,000 live in the West Midlands. We are the leading charity in the West Midlands for people affected by autism. We exist to enable all people with autism and those who love and care for them to lead fulfilling and rewarding lives. Our passionate, expert staff and volunteers work across all age groups and abilities, providing direct support to people affected by autism.

Contact us Autism West Midlands Regent Court George Road Edgbaston Birmingham B15 1NU Email: hello@autismwestmidlands.org.uk Telephone: 0121 450 7582 Information helpline: 03 03 03 00 111 Website: www.autismwestmidlands.org.uk

Find us on Facebook: Search “Autism West Midlands�

Follow us on Twitter: @autismwestmids Our vision is a world where all people on the autism spectrum have the specialist care and support they need to lead fulfilling and rewarding lives. Registered Charity Number: 517077 Registered Company Number: 1953344 (England and Wales)


Befriending Service- Walsall