Twenty year-old Sarah Marchesi from London who is studying Animation at the University of Creative Arts in Farnham, enjoys hanging out with friends and spending time with her family. Nothing in this sounds particularly unusual but there is something special about Sarah.
When she was four, Sarah was diagnosed with autism, which has meant that amongst other things, she has had to overcome many difficulties around communication, socialising and interpreting emotion. Despite these challenges Sarah is not only a successful and independent young woman, but she also works hard to makes a positive difference to the lives of other people that experience autism. It is Sarah’s dedication to making a difference to the lives of others, which led her mother Christine, to nominate her for the 2011 Erica Award.
Young Autistic Spectrum Socialising
Sarah has been helping her mother run a busy and successful Parent Support Organisation called YASS (Young Autistic Spectrum Socialising) for the last seven years. There are currently more than 400 families as members.
YASS, formed in 2000, is run solely by parent-carers who are all volunteers and the group aims to offer activities in public places for children and young people with autism to socialise; organising around eighty activities a year. This is so autistic people get used to and practise what is expected of them in public, and the public accept and understand their differences differences.
Sarah advises on the suitability of activities that YASS plan from the perspective of someone that experiences autism. At the weekend she returns from University to help staff the activities and work alongside the children and young people who range in age from 2 to 19 and their families. Her relationships with the young people at YASS “has to be seen to be believed” said mother, Christine. A recent email from the mum of a six year-old who attends the group said that her child had described Sarah as “his best friend”.
The insight that Sarah has, enables her to work with young people on a level that many professionals would struggle to achieve. Sarah’s commitment and expertise in the area has been recognised outside of YASS too, with three different Disability Activity Providers having already approached her to work with them after finishing University and continue to apply her skills and knowledge for the benefit of helping others.
For her contributions to making a positive difference to the lives of others with autism, Sarah Marchesi was awarded runner-up in the individuals category of the 2011 Erica Awards.
Chair of the Judges, Steve Scown , Dimensions Chief executive said: “Sarah’s dedication to helping the young people at YASS is really impressive. She uses her own experiences to help people with autism and their families to find new ways of doing things and she deserves recognition through the Erica Award.”