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Lesley, Family Support Advisor from our Northampton Children and Young People’s Service, speaks about how families from across the region can access our online family support hub sessions.




Autism East Midlands’ Family Support Hubs run regularly in many locations across the East Midlands region. Our regular drop-in support hubs act as a respite for parents, carers and family members to discuss their experiences in a safe space, as well as providing support for families with children 11 years or under with Autism.

The whole family is welcome to come along! There are multiple activities such as arts and crafts, toys, cooking, and outdoor activities for the children to get involved with. Additionally, parents and carers have to opportunity to chat, share experiences, form friendships or get specialist information and advice from our Hub staff and volunteers.

Autism East Midlands are following governmental advice as it develop throughout the Coronavirus outbreak. For that reason, we have made the difficult decision of temporarily pausing our usual model of Family Support Hubs.

So, given the current virus situation, how can we keep providing this invaluable support to our families? The answer is that we can’t, not in the usual format anyway. However, we recognise the importance of our Hubs to families that require our support, guidance, advice and the safe space we provide at our Hubs.

To try to meet the needs of parents and carers during this difficult time, we’ve set up virtual Family Support Hubs which you can attend from the comfort of your sofa. The Hubs are accessed through Zoom, freely available video conferencing software, and run three times per week with two evening (Monday and Wednesday from 7-9pm) sessions and one daytime (Friday 12-2pm) session. Any parent or carer from any area can join in with the hubs; they are not restricted to the areas of the ‘physical’ Hub locations.

In order to  join in with any of the Hubs, just email us on northampton@autismeastmidlands.org.uk and we’ll send you a weblink to follow. It’s easy to join, and despite the email address, our Hubs are open to everyone across the East Midlands region! Simply wait until the time of the Hub, copy and paste the scheduled Hub link provided into your browser and follow the instructions from there, this will take you to the hub meeting waiting room to which I will let you into the Zoom chat room.

Once in, you’ll see a screen with everyone taking part and we can all chat to each other. If this sounds a bit daunting (and let’s face it, it is a bit strange at first) then let me know and I can talk you through the process prior to the scheduled Zoom session, this is so you’ve had a bit of practise with the software before using it for real.

Each two-hour session is an opportunity to talk about the same topics that are discussed at the Hubs in person, which are normally very relaxed and casual! We’ve shared our experience about what we can do to protect our own mental health with all the challenges that Covid-19 is bringing. We’ve discussed how our children are coping at home with the potential lack or change of routine, and how to implement a new routine if that’s what’s needed.

Some children are much less anxious having had the pressures of school taken away, but conversely some are really struggling without the much-needed structure. This week, we’ve had questions regarding puberty in boys and how this may be affected by his Autism, and how to handle certain behaviours, so we talked it through and emailed some resources the next day to our attendees. We’ve also spoken about siblings and how they manage with having brothers or sisters with Autism and how and where they can get support. Basically, if you can chat about it in a physical Hub, you can chat about it through Zoom, too!

If you want Hubs themed to particular age groups or topics, let us know – if we have enough demand we are happy to do this. It’s unusual times for everyone, and we’re just keen to try to put the best support possible in place, that meets the needs of as many parents or carers as it can.

Come and say hi! And remember, any questions at all, just contact northampton@autismeastmidlands.org.uk – we’re here to help you.