Vale of Leven Autism & Asperger’s Forum (VOLAAF) is a small registered charity based in West Dunbartonshire. The group was founded in 2011 and we achieved charity status in 2014. VOLAAF started when two mums of recently diagnosed autistic children met for a chat. Both felt lost and let down by the professional system, or more so the lack of. The two parents decided to hold a small support meeting in a café once it was closed and had 5 other parents attend. They all spoke and got advice from the other parents in very similar situations but one thing soon became very apparent, everyone felt lost.
They decided to meet up again in a fortnight and put details in the local press about the support meeting. More and more new parents and carers were coming to each meeting, some coming from different local authorities further afield. A Facebook group was then started as it became a necessary outlet for parents who couldn’t attend the meetings due to childcare or for people who couldn’t wait to the next meeting to ask advice. Both the Facebook group and the support meetings started to grow at an alarming pace. The decision was made to form an actual support group. Vale of Leven Autism and Asperger’s Forum (VOLAAF) was born.
After a year of support meetings, VOLAAF outgrew the cafe and moved into a local community centre. The community centre had space for support meetings and a small empty room. The room was the perfect space for a sensory room.
The VOLAAF committee started fundraising and submitting funding applications. At this time it seemed like an impossible dream to achieve the funding required.
VOLAAF was awarded £10k from Awards for All and £5k from Cash for kids. The VOLAAF committee managed to raise a further 10k from fundraising, meaning they finally had enough to get their own sensory room.
VOLAAF were given assurances that they could use the community centre for years and years to come but a short 5 months after the sensory room was installed, they were told the centre was going to be shutting down, leaving VOLAAF homeless.
This was a massive blow to everyone including the children & families who used the community centre for socializing at youth clubs and used the sensory room to help relieve stress and anxiety. Everyone was devastated but rather than give up they carried the fight on and started to look for the more long term, secure premises that could house the group.
A local councillor made the group aware of a nursery which had been derelict for 5 years and with continued support from her and various others in West Dunbartonshire Council the group secured the building on a peppercorn rent for 12 months.
This is when the hard work really began. The group got their keys on 20th June 2014 with members working day and night to get it ready as soon as possible to try to minimize the disruption to the families they supported. The group held their first support meeting in the new West of Scotland Autism and Asperger’s Centre just 5 days later.
The centre is the first of its kind in the UK. A parent/carer led autism specific resource for not only the diagnosed child but the whole family offering services such as youth clubs. The group offer a range of youth clubs offering socialisation in a familiar place including specific groups for different age ranges, support meetings, sibling support group, activities and training sessions.
VOLAAF had a fantastic year in 2014/2015. For Autism Awareness month the group ran a poster competition with the support of the education board within 9 local primary schools to help raise awareness. The group have had numerous press success articles and at the start of April, we were featured on STV Glasgow and on the main STV news. To round up a fantastic year, the group were finalists for the Provost Awards Community and Voluntary Team category.
In 2016, VOLAAF has purchased the building for West Dunbartonshire Council. They worked together with West Dunbartonshire Environment Trust to secure a large amount of funding to renovate both the centre and its garden. The work was completed in April 2016, this included bringing the building up to a higher standard and installing a play garden.
On 2nd June 2016, it was announced that VOLAAF had been awarded the Award of Voluntary Service, MBE. This was a massive achievement for VOLAAF, as it is the highest achievement award within the UK.
VOLAAF’s future is bright and we cannot begin to express how much the support from the local community and businesses have helped us. With this continued support, VOLAAF will continue to flourish
Aims & Objectives
VOLAAF’s Aims & Objectives
It is our aim to provide support for parents, carers and autistic children from the West of Scotland that are affected by Autism by providing recreational activities to break their isolation within the community, in providing a suitable venue, training, leisure interests and social activities suitable to their needs and provide activities to forum members based around health, education and leisure i.e. trips, cooking workshops, information seminars and specialist input, etc.
VOLAAF is run by a team of dedicated volunteer parents and carers of autistic children and offers a service based on living with ASD every day. We always welcome new members and their input.
What Our Families are Saying
Julie and Andrew Gibbon
My son Jack was diagnosed with autism in June 2018 and VOLAAF were a huge support to both Jack and our family before his diagnosis. They have continued to support us since his diagnosis which has benefited us all. Jack enjoys the classes that are run within the centre and as a family we get to meet and chat with other members who understand what we are going through on a daily basis. I have no hesitation in recommending VOLAAF as a support to other families.
Julie and Andrew Gibbon’
Our family found VOLAAF four years ago, just before our daughter was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. We were supported by other parents and guardians who shared their experiences during the weekly Support Meetings. Our daughter visited the club and tentatively integrated into the VOLAAF family at her own pace. She now attends each week and loves to go along.
T- 01389 750834
Email - email@example.com
Vale of Leven Autism and Asperger's Forum
West of Scotland Autism & Asperger's Centre
Registered Charity- SC044915