Ex-City College student with Asperger’s returns to inspire students and launch her first book

Former City College student Robyn Steward, now a consultant, trainer, mentor, speaker and artist, who inspires, educates...

Former City College student Robyn Steward, now a consultant, trainer, mentor, speaker and artist, who inspires, educates and lobbies on Autism, returns to her place of learning to launch her new book. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: Archant Norfolk

A former City College student with Asperger's syndrome who now inspires, educates and lobbies on autism returned to her roots to launch her first book.

Robyn Steward, who left the college in 2005, has gone on to be profiled on BBC Radio 4, and has now written The Independent Woman's Handbook to Super Safe Living on the Autistic Spectrum.

She visited the Regional Centre for Learners with Autistic Spectrum Disorders, based at City College, on Friday and gave a talk to students about her experiences as a woman with Asperger's and her journey as a consultant, trainer and speaker.

She said: 'I am really passionate about young people this age because they've got the opportunity to actually meet their own potential, to make their own choices to change their life for the better. But with that comes more responsibility. The young people here who are on the autistic spectrum are more vulnerable than their neuro-typical, their non-autistic, counterparts because of, say, the sensory difficulties.

'Being aware of those issues is important, from my perspective of teaching people, but also from the perspective of the people working with those young people.'

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The centre was opened as the Rugroom in 2008, and the college has more than 200 students from Norfolk, Suffolk and further afield on the autistic spectrum, using support from Rugroom and its specialist staff.

Its Phoenix Purple course is specifically designed to develop social, life, communication and employability skills for students on the autistic spectrum.

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Ms Steward said: 'I think it's fantastic. The Rugroom was developed by and for students, and I was part of that process of getting students involved with designing a room that was their room, their space, their safe space.

'In my own life, having somewhere of refuge is incredibly important and I know that is true of other people on the autistic spectrum. So to have that, and to see it flourishing, it's not been forgotten about, it's won awards, it's still there and it's still real, is so important.'

Health and social care student Charlie Harvey, 18, from Old Buckenham, who wants to write about autism or teach or assist in a classroom with students with autism, said: 'I found the conference really inspirational. It was really good the way Robyn demonstrated her whole life and how she got to where she is.

'Over the past two years, from being Phoenix Purple to now, it has been so helpful. The Rugroom and Phoenix Purple have helped me with my communication, by just talking to people and socialising with people my own age. It has assisted me in making friends and colleagues and it's helped me to understand that everyone is different. Plus, it's helped me with what I want to do by observing what the teachers and support staff do.'

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