New Sudbury autism charity seeks to change attitudes with open day

The Sudbury Autistic, Fun and Expression (SAFE) Group is a new charity for people with autism and Asperger's syndrome.
The Sudbury Autistic, Fun and Expression (SAFE) Group is a new charity for people with autism and Asperger's syndrome.

A new support charity in Sudbury for people who have autism hopes to help the community at large understand those with the condition, and not view them as having a disability.

The Sudbury Autistic, Fun and Expression (Safe) Group is encouraging the general public to come along to its first open day this week, after it secured official charity status last month.

The group meets in the Living Waters Fellowship in Gregory Street every Thursday, from 10am to 2pm, to help people on the autism spectrum to express themselves by offering arts and music activities, sensory items and even several small animals to interact with.

Brendan Wren, one of the Safe Group founders, said there is a clear and evident need for such an initiative in the area, with the attendance steadily increasing since it began at the start of the year.

Mr Wren, 32, was diagnosed with both autism and Asperger’s syndrome during adulthood, and argued he should have been given the diagnosis a lot earlier in life, but did not get the help he needed while at school.

He was one of several people to attend the Autism Room in Sudbury, which he said quickly became a required support system that benefitted not only his own life, but also his wife and children.

However, the Autism Room shut suddenly at the end of last year due to financial difficulties.

“Quite a few people were heartbroken when it closed. We met up for Christmas dinner and none of us really wanted to let it go,” he told the Free Press.

“The need for this just outweighed everything else, so we almost felt obligated to put this on.

“Just having a space like this is a must-have for people like myself. You can’t teach someone not to be autistic. What you have to do is let people be themselves.

“At this group, we just let people do what they feel comfortable doing and, by doing so, we encourage various characteristics.

“We also try to encourage people to work with those who are autistic. You can read about traits of autism in a book, but you can’t understand someone until you meet them.

“It’s about providing a place where people can understand autism and we can promote how to work with people.

“The amount of art done by the support group is just amazing. It’s all unpublished and unrecognised, so we want to show people it’s just having different abilities –it’s not a disability.”

Mr Wren explained the purpose of the open day, which takes place on Thursday, April 12, from 10am, is to demonstrate to the public the emotional range, intellect and creative skills of those with autism, and show they do not need to be judged just because they communicate differently.

He added that the support group’s charity status would help it to collaborate with other autism and Asperger’s organisations, to open up more opportunities for other activities.