The National Autistic Society (NAS) in Birmingham is trying to recruit volunteers from all walks of life to share their interests with a local adult, child or family affected by autism. 

The Birmingham Befriending Scheme is supported by Legal & General and currently provides support to around 50 local families. The NAS will be holding training evenings on June 3, 10, 17 and 24 between 7pm and 9pm.

Sylvia Owen, NAS befriending manager, says: "The aim of the NAS Befriending Scheme is to provide voluntary support to individuals with autism and their families.  The scheme is going from strength to strength, but still needs more volunteers to meet the needs of families.  Befrienders receive training in autism and are supported all the way.

"Children and adults with autism often have problems making sense of and coping with the world around them. They have difficulty developing friendships or understanding other people’s feelings.  Many lead lonely lives.  Whether you enjoy sport or TV, computers or cinema, going out for coffee, shopping or staying in playing board-games, your time could make a real difference."

Sharon Rice and her son Joseph, from Coleshill, in Birmingham, have been supported by the Befriending Scheme in Birmingham for three years.

Sharon says: "When Joseph was diagnosed it was very traumatic and I didn’t know where to look for help and support. Our befriender, Pat Hand, has a grandson with autism and we saw the progress that he is making and it was very encouraging for us. We now all four go for activities together and Joseph and Owen are good friends. Befriending has made a very positive impression on all of us."

Pat, from Chelmsley Wood, said: "I got involved with the Befriending Scheme because I have a grandson with autism and I realised there is little or no support available for parents or carers to have a break of any type. Often they are on their own with their child for 24 hours, 7 days a week. I can see how Sharon and Joseph benefit from my visits and it makes me feel good to give something back. Joseph has made such progress."

To find out more about volunteering as a befriender, contact Sylvia Owen on 0121 474 2568  or email: