STAAR was formed in 2006 by a small group of parents of autistic children. The founder and leading light was Julie Rennie, who discovered that whilst there was some support available for younger autistic children there was really nothing suitable for teenagers.
Initially the group organised coffee mornings and social events for families where mutual support and information could be provided in what could be seen as a struggle to obtain the services and benefits that their children were entitled to.
As time went on the group became known and recognised by Redbridge Childrens Services and provided valuable advocacy services to families. The main focus however remained to provide activities for autistic youngsters and with some support from Redbridge they set up Gamestaars, an after school video games club which proved very popular.
As young people grow older their needs change and it became obvious that activities like cinema trips, bowling and other outings were not available to autistic youngsters without support, and so ‘Out and About’ was formed, where a group leader would consult with a small group of young people about possible trips, then organise and accompany the young people on the chosen activities. Again funding from Redbridge was enormously helpful on covering expenses.
Meanwhile the family social activities continued, as did the carers’ socials which provided valuable respite and mutual support for carers. STAAR also started to organise Mini-Markets and Tabletop Sales which not only raised vital funds but also, more importantly, provided valuable volunteering opportunities for the young people who are the focus of all our activities.
As mentioned earlier the leading light of STAAR was Julie Rennie. Sadly Julie was suddenly taken from us in April 2017 by a brain haemorrhage. It is a tribute to Julie’s personality and organisation that we have been able to continue to run STAAR activities in her absence. What we have lost however is the immense bank of knowledge, understanding of disability law and procedures, benefit entitlement and procedures that Julie had. Consequently the STAAR helpline has been discontinued and this website provides signposts to other sources of such expertise.