As our first group anniversary approaches we can look back with some amazement at the way our simple plan to provide safe spaces where post-diagnosis autistic adults can retreat, relax and restore themselves with support from like-minded peers. We’ve changed a few attitudes and misconceptions already by simply getting on with it, finding out what we’re each good at and bringing this to the group to benefit all.
We’ve earned praise from those who showed faith in us and were far-sighted enough to allow us onto their land and into their established communities to do our thing in our way. We’ve become protective of our group from the gremlins that like to spoil a good thing and we’ve made friends and approached personal challenges together.
Our fund raiser, packing shopping bags for shoppers was a challenge for all of us, with all the noise, lights and crowds but everyone met their personal challenges and our group flourished after some local support and generous donations. We worked together for our part in the Bellahouston Open Day and the Glasgow Allotments’ Forum, each of which was very enjoyable.
To challenge ourselves further and create more opportunities to continue doing so, we collaborated with various partners to deliver some memorable events. We didn’t especially profile autism but we met people – many of whom became friends, supporters and even members after realising the subtle message we were spreading had reached them too.
We need to realise it ourselves first, though, and, when under pressure anyone can lose their grasp of the bigger picture and overwhelmed by a hostile environment. Using the restorative qualities of the natural environment has proven transformative for many people, the world over and so it has for our members, too. Our spaces are ‘safe’ because we ensure the environment is acceptable to those attending and we ask members to respect the needs of others in the group as their varying needs will be respected and supported.
We want everyone to thrive but not at anyone else’s expense, it’s about developing a realisation of one’s own talents and sharing that in a way that works for the individual and for the group and anyone attending our sessions can be confident of their personal space being protected so they can compose themselves and leave feeling stronger to face the wider world.
And so, our events have been themed to use the analogy of individuals finding their place in the community – often a tricky thing to get right for many but a specific challenge for autistics. In our event with Tchai Ovna Tea House we grew, dried and blended herbs to make refreshing drinks. We invited along members of the public and there was quite a buzz of conversation as people selected their own choice of herbs and offered tastings. Similarly, our bread making event with bakery47 used the same ingredients for all our participants’ loaves but with their added selection of ingredients – to mimic our similarities and our differences creating different results – each with its own value – just like people – similarities, differences, values.
So now we have more collaborations to look forward to and share with you. In March, in collaboration with the CCA, we launch our series of events titled ‘A Place for Everyone’ with Tchai Ovna , followed by our event with Kinning Park Complex and the marvellous, stupendous Britannia Panoticon Music Hall… a long way from the garden, you might think but we grow in the garden and far beyond to express ourselves in new ways, with new people so we learn to cope with new situations. We hope to participate in more open days, too, including our Spring Event with our partners at Daldowie. We look forward to welcoming our new members, too and look forward to looking forward – it’s not too much to ask…