A community group has received a large grant to help make a difference for families with children with special educational needs.
Bicester Autism/ADHD has been awarded £3,900 from the Bicester Village Make a Difference community fund to help the group provide additional support to parents, carers and children.
Group coordinator Lourdes Ferrer, who moved to Bicester five years ago, started volunteering with the charity after son George, seven, was diagnosed with autism two years ago.
Lourdes, originally from El Salvador, said: “When George got diagnosed, I wanted to understand how to improve my support for him so he wasn’t so anxious all the time and hating school.
“We started meeting with the group at their coffee and chat mornings.”
The monthly meetings are held at Bicester Tesco where biscuits and drinks are provided free by the superstore.
“We started play sessions where the children have a place to meet and chat as most of our children don’t want to go out or they feel overwhelmed in public spaces.”
The group has grown from five people meeting once a month in 2014, to more than 300 families and careers sharing tips about school, health and parenting issues over social media.
Lourdes said the charity has turned into “an extended family” where there is “always someone who can understand you”.
“I’m very happy about the group and how families have been supporting each other,” she said.
“I’m very grateful for the funds as they will help us to do even more.”
The volunteers have ambitious plans to launch skills training workshops for parents and children, host awareness events and visit schools during autism awareness week next year.
Bicester Autism/ADHD is one of 12 organisations to receive a slice of the £22,000 Make a Difference pot.
Bicester Village community relations director Miranda Markham said: “It is the first time we have run this type of initiative and we have been amazed at the response.
“It is truly humbling to meet so many organisations who are playing such a vital role in the community.”
A winners celebration event will take place at 5.30pm on May 10.