How community groups have helped one woman find her ‘tribe’

5th April 2024

A woman from Hampshire says she's had a huge boost to her wellbeing since joining one of Autism Hampshire’s community group for autistic adults.

Rebecca* first joined the Serendipity Community Groups as a member but, as her confidence grew, she offered to help out as a volunteer. Yet the first step was a significant challenge and she almost left after her first meeting.

Rebecca, 47, said, “I was seeing a mental health wellbeing coach via my GP and she advised me to research anything to do with autism to find a group. I attended the [Autism Hampshire] group a year ago and felt this was male dominated which made me very anxious and I was not sure if I wanted to go back.

“The male volunteer met me outside and he was really welcoming, because of this I was able to return. It is always intimidating walking into a new setting but I am so glad I came back.”

She described the groups as a way to relax which has a huge impact on her wellbeing – especially if it doesn’t run one week.

“It is our routine, it’s in my head. At least I know I can relax when I get to the group. I don’t have to be in edge and be in Meerkat mode. It’s inclusive, friendly, relaxed and fun. I do have a laugh,” said Rebecca.

“It’s got me out. I’ve made new friends. It’s made feel accepted and part of something. I’ve always been referred to as an ‘odd bod’, but now I’ve found my tribe and where I belong.

“Even on days I don’t want to get in my car, I go to group and use it as my reset button. I leave feeling refocused and more in balance. I feel balanced when I’m in the group.”

Since becoming a volunteer, she has also seen how the group positively impacts other members and encouraged both friends and neighbours to join other groups.

Rebecca explained, “When I first met member ‘X’ he wouldn’t say boo to a goose** but we have formed a really good friendship and we have a special bond. I can get him smiling, talking and laughing.

“I struck up a conversation about mental health at a group once, it was four men and me. In minutes everyone was talking to everyone. I have always liked being a mentor to people.”

Personally, Rebecca discovered she is autistic over the last couple of years and has been on the waiting list for a diagnosis for three years. So for her, it means a lot that the groups are free and can be accessed by people even if they don’t have a diagnosis yet.

Rebecca explained: “Attending the groups gives me a purpose and something to look forward to. I’ve made good friends and it has given me more confidence.

“This is the first social group in my life that I feel relaxed in, I can be myself without any judgement or bullying. I am so glad I went back the second time. The group is like gold dust.

“This group has saved me, I am the other side of a physical and mental breakdown and I find coming to the group helps me relax.”

To find out more about the Serendipity Community Groups, visit

*Rebecca’s name has been changed

** To mean that someone is very quiet, shy or nervous

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