First launched in Luton 2002, Loads of Autistic Fun (LOAF) is a term-time social activity and support group for children with autism aged 0-12 years, their siblings and their parents/carers. We now have 4 LOAF groups across the county which run fortnightly on Saturdays from 10am to 1pm. 18 sessions per group are provided during the year and each can cater for up to 15 families.
LOAF provides a calm, safe and supportive environment for the children to have fun, play and meet other children but not be judged if they don’t want to join in. The activities are carefully planned and tailored to the abilities and interests of the children and aim to help build their confidence and self-esteem, as well as developing their social, communication and life skills. They include arts and crafts, toys and games, soft play, bouncy castles, outdoor play and sensory activities.
The children are supported by trained staff and volunteers who understand their complex needs and can support them if they become anxious. The high ratio of staff to children makes this an expensive service but this level of care is essential to properly support these vulnerable children. For some, LOAF is the only place they go to other than school or home.
Siblings are encouraged to join in, and we have a parents room to provide respite & advice. The parents describe LOAF as a lifeline because they are able to take time out and share experiences with other parents, knowing that their autistic children are having fun and are being well looked after. The mutual support amongst the parents helps them feel that they are not alone in their struggles and better equips them to support their autistic children. LOAF aims to act as an early intervention service for the whole family which could prevent a breakdown and the need for more drastic and costly interventions from Health or Social Services later on.
Over the 27 years that we have been operating, we have earned a widespread reputation for our knowledge and expertise in the field of autism and for providing high quality, specialist autism support. We provide places where autistic people can be themselves and enjoy activities that are designed and run by people who understand their complex needs and anxieties and can support them if they become distressed. We provide opportunities for them to gain confidence and develop their social, communication, independence and life skills in a safe and non-judgemental environment that will improve their prospects in life. We also offer support to families because caring for an autistic child or adult is extremely demanding and stressful. The constant emotional, financial and physical strain for the parents and siblings means they become exhausted, isolated and desperate for help.