A new centre is set to transform the lives of young adults with learning disabilities and autism in Bradford.
Carly Newsholme has seen the stress and isolation faced by SEND students leaving the school system first-hand.
Now she hopes to bridge the gap in support through the simple acts of baking, cooking, and gaming.
The new social activity centre, Connect The Dots, will be based at Thackley Cricket Club.
Connect The Dots is hoped to spark lifelong friendships, independence and confidence.
It is a cause close to Carly’s heart as someone with a rare disability known as Moebius Syndrome.
The condition affects many parts of her life, including her muscles, hearing and teeth.
She said: “Some of the assumptions made about people, I’ve faced it myself. It’s completely wrong.
“We’re all about inclusion and equality, just rights for everyone. We want people to have fun, feel fulfilled and learn new skills - a safe space.
“It takes the pressure off families, it’s supporting the community. Families want their young person to be happy.
“It’s so important to feel fulfilled on a daily basis.”
Carly, who taught SEND pupils at a mainstream college for six years, said: “The students can stay longer in education if you’ve got a disability. You can stay until you’re 25, as long as you’re still learning.
“We’ve got some amazing things in Bradford but it’s not for everyone. There was nothing for my cohort who do IT, gaming, cooking and baking. They really struggled to find somewhere to go.
“Transition’s a massive thing, there’s not enough opportunities - people with learning disabilities should have fulfilling lives. We’re hoping to fill that gap.
“Often gaming is perceived quite poorly in the media and we want to change people’s minds about that. I’ve got games that promote positive mental health. There’s games for people with physical disabilities where they can take part in gaming like any other person, simply by blinking their eyes. There’s some amazing technology.”
Carly will also be educating people on internet safety and exercise.
Connect the Dots has already welcomed new members - including Bethan Jones.
Bethan’s mum, Lisa, said: “She has a genuine connection with the people she is working with and a great understanding of their individual needs and how best those needs can be met.
“It’s important to parents/carers that our loved ones are happy, understood and safe when they are in someone else’s care.”
Anyone who wishes to apply to Connect the Dots can email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website, www.connectthedots.social
It is open to all adults with SEND and learning disabilities.