Autastic Club Johnstone
Based in Johnstone, the team behind Autastic Club is looking to ensure that everyone has a place to be who they are without fear of judgement or scrutiny
For Ashley McSwegan and Angela Armour, Autastic Club was born of the predicaments they’d faced when it came to finding opportunities for their boys, both of whom have autism, to socialise with other kids and partake in leisure activities.
Left frustrated by the dearth of groups available both on their doorstep and beyond, they set up shop in Johnstone Community Sports Hub, providing a rich calendar of events in an environment the kids are familiar with.
“It’s just become part of our normal routine over the past year or so. We started off with just one session and now we’ve got two with around 40 kids apiece,” Angela revealed. “Ashley and I just realised that it was time to do something ourselves.
“Finding stuff for our boys that was on a reasonable hour and day was really difficult, as ASN sessions are often at like Sunday morning at 9am, the times nobody wants.
“We both work full-time, so we understand that the last thing you want to do is scramble up to Glasgow at 9am, it makes it feel like a tick-box exercise to be able to say they’re inclusive. So, we decided to set up Autastic Club by ourselves in September of 2021.
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“It’s largely self-funded and any donations we get are all invested right back into activities for the kids. For example, when Miller Homes gave us £250 for our birthday party, we brought in a petting zoo.
“We’ve got people who come from all over,” Angela said of their growth and how it emphasises the need for groups just like this. “We’ve got families that come from Falkirk, Livingston and plenty from Glasgow.
“It’s a common theme in all boroughs that there’s nothing there, so we get a lot of parents telling us how grateful they are. It’s good for them too, as it can be quite isolating for families like ours, including their neurotypical siblings.
“I’ve met lots of people that I’d probably call friends now as we all have that one common goal: Creating a space for their kids where they can be themselves and not have anyone look at them like they’ve got two heads.
“I’d never like to think that there’s a parent sitting at home on their knees, feeling helpless about what to do, because we’ll always try our best to work something out for them,” Angela implored. “So, if you’d like to get your child involved but feel a wee bit apprehensive, I’d encourage you to please just get in touch with us!”
To find out more about the group and their bustling schedule of events, look for Autastic Club on Facebook or email au***********@gm***.com