Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Asperger’s man launches support group for others

Asperger’s man launches support group for others

AN autism support group has been launched in Watlington.

It is being run by Jamie Carter-Knight, 25, who has Asperger’s syndrome and high-functioning autism, and meets weekly.

Mr Carter-Knight, who lives in Pauls Way, wanted to provide a safe and secure environment where people with the condition could support one another, discuss any problems and get advice.

After his diagnosis two years ago, he found the services closest to him were in Reading or Oxford and were held only twice a month.

Mr Carter-Knight said: “My issue was transport, which is a common factor in the autism community — problems with public transport as well as their own transport. Some might not drive but they don’t like taxis or buses so you can be quite isolated.

“For most people using that service it’s one of the only social interactions they can do.

“I started an Instagram page just to connect with other people on the spectrum and I started putting out my content and people where saying, ‘this really helped with my diagnosis and to come to terms with it’.

“I suddenly realised I had the gift of vocalising what other people were struggling to so I wanted to be their mouthpiece and give them a voice.”

He spoke to his mentor at Autism Oxford, an organisation which enables others to learn from autistic people, their family members and skilled autism professionals, and encourages and supports the development of autism-specific services and access for autistic people to generic services. He then decided to set up his own group and began holding sessions last month.

Mr Carter-Knight said: “It’s mainly counselling and autism education.  Some of these people don’t get to speak to anyone about anything they are struggling with.

“I’ve done everything with no overheads. I thought about the venue. I didn’t want something that was too intimidating.

“The upside of me being late diagnosed — and I always look for the positive — is that I learned how to cope for 20 years beforehand.

“I never tell anyone ‘I think you’re autistic’. I just provide the information that allows people to make their own decisions. I now think we’re past autism awareness and into understanding.”

He said the group had been well received and about half a dozen people attended meetings each week.

Mr Carter-Knight said: “The aim is not to be too big because if it is, it’s intimidating.”

He struggled with exams at school, couldn’t focus and found the school halls intimidating. Mr Carter-Knight said: “I actually had delayed development mentally and physically,” he said. “My body was still about the size of a 12-year-old when I was 16.

“I remember taking my final GCSE exams and not understanding the importance. I would say I was more 12 or 13 in the head then. I didn’t understand the exams were a stepping stone.

“I used to spend every lunch break by myself by the radiator. I didn’t like to go outside.

“I ended up having 23 different jobs before my diagnosis, which gave me the closure I needed at the time.

“I felt completely lost and I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t fit into places and why I was struggling more than others.

“For me, to be normal requires a lot of energy. There’s only so long you can do that before you burn out.”

Mr Carter-Knight, who is currently unemployed, said he’d like to run more groups, including one for children. “Even if I help just one person and it makes a difference, I’m happy,” he said.

 The group meets at the Chequers pub in Love Lane, Watlington, every Wednesday from 7pm to 9pm and entry is free.

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