Nebula is a not-for-profit voluntary community group which was set up in January 2016 to meet the growing needs of girls and young women on the autism spectrum. The idea of a support group came about as a result of the research that Group Leader Lesley Brook had undertaken whilst studying for her degree in autism, in response to the challenges that girls experience whilst at school and of women through into adulthood.
“I wanted somewhere that helped girls to be able to connect and feel confident about who they are”, says Lesley. "Most challenges start early in our girls’ lives so it’s important for them to feel safe, accepted and valued. The group provides an environment where they can have the same social experiences as any other girl and where they can see each other as their equal or even as friends”.
We take girls from around 8 years old up to the age of 25. They don’t need to have a diagnosis of autism. Many of the parents who approach us have girls on the assessment pathway and we are also happy to talk with parents or young women themselves who are exploring the idea that they or their young person may be on the autism spectrum.
Here at Nebula, we do not focus on autism as a disability – instead of looking at what we can’t do, we look at what we can do - our strengths and talents. That’s not to say that being autistic doesn’t come with its challenges and we endeavour to support the girls through those difficult times.
Our focus is on social support – through combining the girls interests with activities – whilst being aware of any challenges.
We want their experience at Nebula to be a positive one. We ask parents to complete a registration form so we can ascertain your young person’s needs and may follow this up with a telephone call. For a lot of girls in secondary school they just want to fit in and might be confused or anxious about getting a diagnosis . The idea of a group for autistic girls may appear to be something very alien or scary so for those girls, we will work with the parents first. We introduce information about the group to the girls at their own pace to help them find some common ground.
More recently, we have been looking at supporting our older girls with work experience or volunteering positions to help them gain skills and confidence with finding a job.