I think the 16-30’s group is great because it allows young people to meet up with others from around the UK who have the same or similar and even different conditions. It is a good chance for people to get to know each other and make friends, and who’s going to turn down an opportunity to make friends?

From my experience, having attended the group twice so far, people there (especially the younger ones) have trouble socialising and making friends back at home; so coming to this group is a good opportunity to socialise and make friends. The group attracts new faces each year, showing that the previous year has been a success. That the group is always continuing to grow is a clear indicator that there is a benefit to coming. It is also a good opportunity for people to gain confidence in themselves socially and on a physical level, too; to know what support (wherever concerned) is available and how to overcome obstacles from first-hand experience.

I have personally gained a few friendships from this group and I have been able to help and encourage them to be more social and less shy. This is the kind of effect that this group has been able to offer to nearly everyone, including myself. I have a better understanding of my own condition as well as other peoples’ because of going to this group.

Considering how rare ataxia is and how dispersed we all are around the UK, it is very difficult to meet up; the Ataxia UK Annual Conference is a perfect opportunity for everyone to amass in one place and say ‘hi’. Unfortunately, more and more people are being diagnosed with ataxia every year and an event like this is something that can really help out both previous and new attendees.

I myself have overcome my negative attitude and shyness towards ataxia, and have since managed to build a good level of confidence and social life. This attitude and confidence that I now have is something with which I wish to help those who are struggling with ataxia, and the 16-30’s group is a very good opportunity to do this because we are all together for the majority of the day.

All in all, it’s just nice for us all to meet up for the day.

- Piers Schofield