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Over the next year we are developing a series of new peer support groups to support autistic people with their mental health. These peer support groups will be co-produced by autistic people* with support from Leeds Mind facilitators. We are starting by carrying out focus groups with autistic people in order to further understand what support is most needed. There will be a choice of two focus groups, one on 11th April 5:30pm-7:30pm and one on 18th April 11:30am-1:30pm, both taking place at Clarence House, Horsforth. 

If you are interested in the work we are doing or want to sign up to help or join in, keep reading! 

Hello, I’m Katie Jennings, a new Peer Support Group & Development Worker for the Open Minds Project: Working with Autistic People. I also work as a counsellor for Leeds Mind and after finding out I am autistic in 2023, this job seemed a perfect way to bring together my work experience and lived experience.

Throughout the years of being undiagnosed, I struggled with multiple mental health problems and once I recognised my neurodiversity, this helped me understand myself and work with my brain instead of against it. However, it was still difficult coming to terms with it without support from the healthcare system or even the therapy I was attending. I think my loved ones struggled to recognise what a big change this diagnosis was for me and didn’t know how to help me live more authentically. What really could have helped was a peer support group with other autistic people, a space to learn, understand and support each other. This is why this project is so important to me. 

The aim of this project is to create 12 workshops and 8 courses that help autistic people with mental health struggles to understand themselves further, improve their ability to manage and navigate life with neurodivergence, whilst reducing isolation and stigma. 

The groups and courses will be co-produced, meaning that they will be developed with service providers and service users equally throughout the entire process. This allows resources and knowledge to be shared between professionals in the field and people who would use the service – in this case, autistic people. Co-production will allow us to develop the most accessible, effective, and relevant support possible for group members. 

We are in early stages of this project and so far, we have been working on finding accessible venues for our groups to run in. We have developed a checklist of the requirements that ideally venues would meet, in order to be an autistic friendly meeting space, and in scoring each venue against the checklist, we can see which ones are the most accessible and most suitable for us to use. The requirements include having an accessible break out room or area that people can use if the group setting becomes too overstimulating and people need to step out to regulate. As well as trying to avoid other features that could contribute to overstimulation such as harsh lights, harsh temperatures, loud surrounding noises. We have looked at venues across Leeds (including our own), so they are also physically accessible for people to attend who live in different areas. 

The next step of our project is carrying out focus groups. This will involve getting a group of autistic people together and discussing their experience of mental health struggles and aiming to identify areas/subjects it would be helpful to offer groups on.  

For example, there may be a list of possible topics we could cover, and we would be able to find out which of these are most popular.  

These focus groups will be on Thursday 11th April 5:30pm-7:30pm, and Thursday 18th April 11:30am-1:30pm so there is a choice for people to attend. They will both be carried out at our Leeds Mind premises, Clarence House, in Horsforth. If you are interested in being involved in this or would like more details, please contact us. 

Once the focus groups have been completed and we’ve collected our findings, we will be able to go ahead and work on co-producing these groups and workshops based on the information we have gathered. All going well, we hope to start delivering from late May, and will continue to develop and adapt as we learn from each workshop and course. I’m excited to get to the point where we can start putting the much needed support in place, but we must do the important work first in creating this, therefore any support or help is very much appreciated. If you would like to volunteer to co-produce or are interested in becoming a Leeds Mind volunteer, please don’t hesitate to get in touch! 

You can look out for more information regarding our project as it develops on our social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn) and here on our website. 

If you would like to get involved in helping produce our project, or to register your interest in attending workshops or groups, please contact us by: 


Phone: 0113 305 5800 (Leeds Mind reception) 

*We understand that the language we use around experiences of autism is important, and the way that someone identifies with that label can vary for each individual. For example, some prefer to be described as “a person with autism”, whereas others prefer to be referred to as an “autistic person”. We will take a person-centred approach throughout the project, respecting each individual’s choice, and working to co-produce a consensus around language.