Writing gave Andrew anew lease of life

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A man with autism says he has a “new lease of life” after discovering the world of writing.

Speaking after Autism Awareness Week, Andrew Smith shared his experience of how returning to education ignited a new, creative spark.

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people.

It also affects how they make sense of the world around them.

Andrew’s journey began in 2009, when at the age of 42, he decided to study for his English and Maths GCSEs.

Although nervous at first, Andrew thrived in his classes and soon grew to love studying English.

“I surprised myself in that I wanted to turn up for the classes and when term time was over I missed it immensely,” Andrew, 47, said.

“Even more surprising was the fact that I not only enjoyed but understood Macbeth.”

Andrew’s discovery of Shakespeare opened a whole new world to him - he went on to study for his A Levels and then gained a place at the University of Huddersfiel to study sociology.

Writing took a back seat at this time and although Andrew had to retake his second year as a result of health problems, he battled on and gained enough marks to be on course for a 2:1 degree classification.

But he still felt that something was missing.

Andrew, from Queensbury, said: “A part of me was unfulfilled but I didn’t know what. I remember being sat at home staring out of my living room window into the inky blackness and thinking I really need to do something with my life.”

“I thought to myself ‘what do I like’? I like reading and writing I thought. Why not join a book club?”

Andrew began to attend a group called “Igniting the Spark” at Dean Clough Mills. His first session was a life changing experience.

“I came away feeling inspired and alive,” Andrew said. “I remember thinking wow, why haven’t I done this before. It felt as if a part of me was awakened that day in that session.

“I had done something creative and I had enjoyed it, I had created something on my own and I felt both proud of myself and amazed at my ability to actually create something.”

Andrew continued to go to the group and he says his writing journey has opened an exciting new world to him.

He said: “As a person I feel I’ve improved and discovered a side of me I’ve always believed was there, but never knew how to release it. I believe I’m a far better person because of my writing journey.

“I feel more creative in everything I do, my imagination has been found after years of being hidden away and I’m looking at life through new eyes, excited eyes, almost childlike in how they see this exciting new world that

didn’t exist before.”

Visit www.calderdalenas.org.uk for autism support in Calderdale.