Richard Farebrother, who is diagnosed autistic, had such a difficult time with his condition that he was barely able to speak at the group home he shared with around 18 other people as he could find its busy environment a challenge.

But his life changed after he visited a smaller scheme - The Roses in Drayton Parslow, Buckinghamshire (run by Hightown Housing Association) where they support people with autism to live as independently as possible.

He has agreed for his inspiring story to be told as part of World Autism Awareness Week, which runs until Sunday 2nd April and aims to make as many people as possible understand more about the condition.

After a gentle transition to the new and calmer environment of The Roses, accredited by the National Autistic Society (NAS), 39-year-old Richard moved into the home and took the lead in showing everyone what he enjoyed about being in a house with just two other residents.

While he enjoyed the community environment of his previous home, including sharing his life with friends he has known for many years, he could find it difficult dealing with its busy and sometimes loud environment.

Richard, who has been supported by Hightown to be as independent as possible since moving into The Roses, now enjoys cooking, shopping, looking after his home and taking part in community activities for the first time in many years.

Richard’s transition to life in The Roses, where staff specifically support autistic people with their day-to-day lives, began when he met some of the team in February 2016.  It can take weeks or months before each person is ready for a move and great care was taken in supporting him to learn about the possibility of living in a different environment.

The team at The Roses learned a lot from Richard, including how busy surroundings affected how he would speak to others. When he was at The Roses, Richard found it easier to talk to staff, join in with activities, make more choices and begin to try different things.

In July 2016, Richard moved house permanently and immediately began to settle in, with the team at The Roses on hand to support him with daily living and to manage the challenges that his autism brings him.

The staff have been working on a photo ‘now and next’ system to reinforce their verbal communication with Richard. They are also establishing routines and regular activities to support his independence, as well as devising tools he can use when things do not go to plan or routines change.

Richard’s mother Pauline Welch said: “It is wonderful that the team at The Roses are all supporting Richard to access the community and widen his horizons in these ways - hopefully this will widen the community’s horizons too!”

Dave Black Director of Hightown’s Care and Supported Housing Services said: “We aim to support people to be as independent as possible and help them reach their full potential. The team at The Roses have worked hard to offer support to Richard built around his needs and I’m delighted it is paying off with his new-found confidence.”