At this point both a Website (www.a-stars.org.uk) and leaflets were created to advertise our existence and parents began to think of other ways to bring the group to the public’s attention. We began with the Children’s Centre in Dorchester as well as contacting many schools and doctors surgeries. We also made concerted efforts to begin fundraising ourselves and further looked for more funding from outside agencies.
We were very fortunate to be offered funding for our project from the Connexions service within a few months and this secured our use of the buildings and facilities. We received an offer from a local company (DEK) to purchase our opening set of library books and by the end of the first year numbers at the group had doubled.
Since 2007 the club has gone from strength to strength. We were supported by Connexions for three years and then by Dorset County Council for a further two. We also received a large amount of funding from The Local Network Fund. Funding is now something that is sought out each year from different sources. We have developed an excellent understanding with the Children’s Centre in Dorchester such that, on diagnosis, families are normally offered our details instantly and we are also linked with other ASD support groups around the South of England along with the Dorset ADHD Support Group.
Our entry in the National Autistic Society’s data bank of support groups shows our permanence and we can also be found on the ‘Dorset For You’ website as well as being included in the Children’s Directory of Services produced by Dorset County Council. We have also received coverage from the press and by 2011 the number of enrolled families reached 36!
The dedicated Management Committee always strive to keep ‘A Stars’ true to its original intentions and rely very much on the input of all of its members. Membership is open to any family that pays subscriptions in advance and quarterly Steering Committee Meetings are held to discuss new ideas and address any running issues.
Over the years parents continue to contribute greatly to the clubs general running by: helping out with activities, organising fund raising events, taking on odd jobs and providing other families with a welcome chance to chat over difficult issues. In addition to this some of our young people have also found the club, not only a source of new friendships but also, a place to grow emotionally and then support younger children who may have similar problems.
‘A Stars’ is continuing to provide a non-judgemental environment for families affected by Autistic Spectrum Disorders in a multitude of ways and hopes very much to be doing so for many years to come.