The Brave and Extraordinary Sarah Micklewright
Sarah Micklewright, autism activist and founder of ASPIE, was born in 1975. She died on 24th April 2014, aged 38.
Sarah Micklewright was the founder and Chair of the Asperger’s support group ASPIE (Asperger’s Syndrome People Into Everything). She gained a law degree, trained as an accountant and joined MENSA before receiving her Asperger’s diagnosis in 1998, and her legal and financial background, coupled with her first-hand insight into the complexities of living on the autism spectrum, informed her determined and enlightened approach to running a charity which is unique in its conception and constitution. Her vision, to provide a relaxed, stress-free environment in which adults with autism can socialise, find support and pursue interests without fear of conflict or misunderstanding, has helped countless families in the Midlands and beyond. Her work lives on, as her charity continues to provide a lifeline to more than fifty families in an average week.
Sarah was born in Kidderminster in 1975, the daughter of John and Julia. She graduated in law from the University of Wolverhampton and proceeded to accountancy training. She pursued a varied career: for some years she was the Financial Controller of a hotel and country club in Warwickshire, and she worked to facilitate the placing of young people in employment. Her later employment with the Worcestershire Community Alcohol Team provided her with charity experience which was to prove invaluable when she came to set up ASPIE.
Having been initially diagnosed with depression as an undergraduate, and having struggled throughout her life to overcome misunderstanding, prejudice and anxiety, Sarah identified an acute need for constructive support and enlightened companionship among adults with a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. She realised that many such individuals were highly intelligent and capable, and passionately desired full and active lives, yet were hampered from realising their potential owing to widespread ignorance of the subtleties of their condition and a lack of informed perception on the part of employers, colleagues and professionals. Sarah resolved to take action, bolstered by formidable clear-sightedness in knowing exactly how she wanted her organisation to operate. Permanent premises were essential, for she knew the importance of routine and familiarity to the autistic mind, and the group was to include the inbuilt involvement of a specialist psychologist to provide clear professional guidance.
ASPIE was launched in September 2011 and the specially acquired and furnished premises, maintained without statutory funding at the charity’s base in Worcester, opens each Wednesday and Saturday and serves an acute and growing need. Alongside the services of a resident psychologist, counsellor and support team, the organisation provides ready friendship and a broad spectrum of company, conversation, games, reading matter and intellectual stimulation, whilst affording the opportunity for reflection and solitude which those with Asperger’s often crave.
Members with a wide age range and from all walks of life can meet other adults with the condition, share experiences and find friendship and a feeling of belonging which many of them have never known before. Created and designed by an adult on the autism spectrum, the organisation is virtually, if not entirely, unique, as may be observed from the heartfelt enquiries and pleas for assistance it receives not only from individuals and families in the Midlands, but throughout the UK.
Sarah died in April 2014 after a short illness. Her legacy is an active – and growing – beacon of structured, informed and compassionate support in a world which still fails to offer the necessary care to those with autism spectrum conditions.
Written by Duncan Honeybourne, classical pianist and aspie, 16 May 2014