‘I can just be myself here’: Ipswich’s Autism Social Club marks second birthday

Gemma Grace in the centre with Sally Dean, progression worker from Leading Lives (left), Trudie Timm

Gemma Grace in the centre with Sally Dean, progression worker from Leading Lives (left), Trudie Timms, senior practitioner for NSFT (right), and members of the The Autism Social Club. - Credit: Archant

A social club that helps autistic people in Ipswich break down barriers and form new friendships is celebrating its second birthday.

Members of the The Autism Social Club enjoy a ballroom dance class led by Ipswich School of Dancing

Members of the The Autism Social Club enjoy a ballroom dance class led by Ipswich School of Dancing at the group's January meeting. - Credit: Archant

The monthly get-together is organised by Leading Lives and the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) in a bid to give extra support to adults on the spectrum.

One of the regular attendees is campaigner Gemma Grace, who was diagnosed with autism three years ago.

The 28-year-old said being a part of the group had made her feel proud to be herself.

She said: “It’s brought me out of my shell.

“It’s the social interaction. I don’t have to feel under pressure to give forced eye contact here, I can just be myself.

“This group has helped me overcome a lot of personal barriers.

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“It gives Ipswich a better name for autism. When I was first diagnosed there was no where to go for advice and no one to phone.”

The Autism Social Club meets on the first Thursday of every month at Rushmere Community Hub in Humber Doucy Lane.

It attracts up to 40 people per session, ranging in age from 18 to late 60s.

Trudie Timms, senior practitioner for NSFT, helped kick-start the project in Ipswich.

She said: “The idea came from people who I work with asking for a group where they can meet other like-minded people and come together, share experiences and information and make friendships.”

Each session has a different theme, with activities laid on for people to enjoy.

This month there was a ballroom dancing experience, led by Ipswich School of Dancing, and in February the group is holding a party to mark its second birthday.

The club is open to people over the age of 18 and on the autism spectrum, as well as family members, friends and carers.

To learn more, contact Sally Dean on 01473 602931 or sally.dean@leadinglive.org.uk