A SUPPORT group in Southend has been given nearly £28,000 to help more children living with autism.

Little Heroes ASD Support Group has been awarded the grant by the Health Lottery, joining 65 other Essex organisations supported by the scheme.

Little Heroes was co-founded by Kim Drake, who identified a lack of peer support when her own son was identified as having autism.

It first started in 2012 as an informal peer support group that met for monthly coffee mornings.

As of the end of 2018, it has grown into a registered charity supporting up to 50 people a week.

Little Heroes has received the £27,980 grant from People’s Health Trust, with money raised through the Heath Lottery in the East, which enabled the group to increase the number of sessions it organises to support children with autism and their families.

According to research by Public Health England, people in Essex who face the most disadvantages can expect to live up to 11-years less than those who live in more affluent neighbourhoods.

Kim Drake said: “The funding has given us the flexibility to provide more one-to-one support, we can be reactive to individual family’s needs which is so important to ensure we’re providing support for those who need us most.

“It is just amazing to see children grow in confidence because they are supported in small groups and respond to things like music therapy.”

As well as offering support and information, the project organises family away-days, music therapy sessions, inflatable parties and soft play sessions for children to meet new friends, who sometimes struggle in a nursery or pre-school environment.

Ms Drake added: “Everybody that comes has a connection to autism in some way which means they are able to share their experiences and support each other.

“We offer advice and guidance that stretches far beyond the child’s parents, we have aunts, uncles and grandparents visiting, all looking to learn how they can best support their family members.”

Chris Lunn, a spokesman for Health Lottery East, said: “To date, over £104 million has been raised through The Health Lottery for good causes across Great Britain, of which over £8 million has been raised for the East of England.

“We hope to assist more good causes and you can make a real difference by purchasing a ticket this month.”

Visit www.healthlottery.co.uk.