Number 6 is a one-stop shop, for adults from the age of 16 up, with Asperger’s and high-functioning autism. It’s situated in a tall town house in Edinburgh’s new town. You can get an idea of the formal services it offers from the web site.
In my own experience, I’ve received one to one counselling, attended courses on coping with the difficulties that Asperger’s throws up and the specific challenges of late diagnosis, and finally been able to meet others who like me were diagnosed in adulthood. I’ve also taken advantage of Number 6’s employment counselling when starting a new job after my diagnosis and weighing up the benefits and costs of disclosing my condition in the workplace.
That’s all quite a formal description of what Number 6 can offer. And my own experiences are slanted to my own extremely mild brush from autism. Number 6 has really helped me but it wouldn’t be right to say I depend on that help. However, I know that other users of the service do depend on it. I asked Number 6’s Health and Wellbeing Coordinator, Rachel McRitchie, what difference Number 6 makes to the lives of its users.
“Maybe the biggest difference it makes is that once people know we’re here they’ve got an extra coping tool to use and keep in their back pocket. It doesn’t mean they need to come here all the time. It doesn’t mean we need to know them intricately or anything like that. It just means that if something went wrong in their life, or felt like it was going out of control, there’s an option. There’s somebody they know they can ask and hopefully because of the expertise that we’ve got with Asperger’s that we would understand and maybe be able to offer input and a way forward.
“I think a lot of people do use us in that way. We have over 1400 people registered with us now and that’s a number much bigger than most people would guess. In an average year we tend to have about half of that volume of individuals that will access us at some point. (Maybe the other half don’t need us that year!) It’s just the idea that there’s something there if they need the option.
“For some people who do use us a lot we’re pretty much their second home and their second family – or their first family for that matter. Because there’s a lot of people who for different reasons don’t actually have anybody in the world. And that’s part of where they maybe struggle with social isolation and loneliness. And the way we like to run Number 6 and, the way that people like to use us is that it operates as a big house: It’s like when you’re young and your mum opens the door and you can come in and out whenever you want. People feel the freedom to come and go as they please. There isn’t any sort of marked expectation on the way be want people to use us. They can be quite free to explore what that is for them.
We actively promote the idea of it looking and feeling a bit more like a home, so that people do start to feel that way about it. Obviously we’re staff and people are using a service, but people do say that it feels like we’re a protective family that is there for them when they need it.
“So people feel like there’s somebody looking out for them. Maybe that’s what Number 6 is. That person that’s there for you when you need them.”
You can help me help Rachel and her colleagues keep the door of Number 6 open so that there service is there when it's needed, 365 days a year.