A NEW coffee morning is starting in Keighley for parents and carers of children with autism.

The monthly Friday gathering at Keighley College is being supported by Keighley regeneration body Big Local.

The group is the brainchild of Keighley resident Fiona Thompson, a leading member of the Keighley Big Local Partnership.

Fiona’s son Eden has an autism spectrum disorder which affects his social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour.

She said: “Living with a child with ASD is invigorating and brings the greatest of rewards, but it is also incredibly challenging.

“I often find the best support and understanding is from other parents walking the same path.”

Fiona contacted Rachel Miller from Airedale and Wharfedale Autism Resource (AWARE) to ask for advice.

The charity will support Fiona in establishing the coffee mornings and promoting the help and social activities available in the area for families.

Fiona said he wanted to find a neutral, inspirational venue, so she asked for permission to use the Keighley College cafe.

She said: “The college has a great reputation for realising the full potential of their supported students.

"ASD doesn't have to hold children and young people back. With the right support, both in education and the workplace, they can use all their intelligence to stretch their potential.”

College staff members Frances Day and Heather Whitehead are integrating the coffee morning into their supported student programme.

Fiona added: “The students will be part of a team providing a relaxing, social meeting where are there are no rules or responsibility other than having a break, a chat and a brew."

Heather said: “"This is a great opportunity for the college to build links with the communities it serves and give our students the opportunity to meet new friends, boost their life skills and employability, and all centred around a project with a practical focus.”

The first gathering will be on December 1 from 10am to 11.30am, followed by January 5, February 2 and March 2. Regulars will then decide the best time for future coffee morning.

Those attending will be asked for a £1 donation per meeting. There will offered free membership to AWARE, given access to monthly meetings, special activities, a regular newsletter, and an extensive library of books, videos and CDs about autism.

Email admin@keighleybiglocal.org.uk for further information.