Charlie’s back on Cov Uni campus for Fine Art degree

Freshers Week (or Welcome Week as it’s now called) is happening right now and we’re rooting for one particular student joining the crowds at Coventry University – Charlie, a former participant on our Help and Connect project.

Going to a large, sprawling campus full of faces and places you don’t know can be a daunting experience for lots of people. This can be even more magnified for an autistic person like Charlie.

A young man wears a brown hoody with red crossbody bag and brown hair as he holds a notepad under his arm and stands inside Coventry University students union.
Charlie at a Coventry University Open Day in 2022.

He’s already completed his foundation year in Art at the university but it will still be a testing time as familiar routines, timetables, lecturers – and more – change.

When Grapevine project worker Kitty met Charlie just before the pandemic in 2019, he was extremely isolated, spending all his time at home with his siblings. Siblings only because the brothers and sisters had lost both their parents within the space of just three years.

The isolation of lockdown during the Covid-19 crisis in 2020 and 2021 didn’t help matters.

Charlie’s older sister recognised that he needed some support in a busy household where the others were coming and going, but Charlie was staying put in his room.

She found Grapevine online and Kitty began work getting to know Charlie, gaining his trust and helping him hone down what his passions and interests were so he could decide what goals he wanted to set himself in life.

Two white people, a woman and a young man, sit together otuside on campus with the library and trees behind them on a summer's day. The young man has short brown hair and is wearing a burgundy hoody over a black top and jeans. The woman wears a flowery dress and her long blonde hair loose over her shoulders. They are smiling.
Kitty and Charlie sit outside Coventry University Library.

Art became the clear front-runner so Kitty connected him with Johnny, a local artist who is also autistic, to help Charlie discuss his dreams.

Kitty’s other friend Toz, the creative director for a Coventry-based marketing agency, helped further by chatting to Charlie about his own university experience. He suggested a foundation year in Art where Charlie could experiment with different disciplines.

It was a real game-changer for Charlie and he and Kitty attended a Coventry University Open Day, subsequently applying for the course. Kitty connected him to Student Support there too.

Charlie had never been on public transport so some training helped guide him through routes and timetables until he felt confident enough to navigate the journey alone.

He was keen to attend Welcome Week 2022 independently and well, the rest is history.

Charlie completed his course, exploring different artistic styles and further developing his own. The year also included a week away from home visiting London’s top art galleries.

Now he is onto his next chapter, a three-year degree in Fine Art.

Kitty will stay in touch but this is Charlie’s story and she is really just cheering him on from the sidelines now as he moves onto the next stage of his life.

About Help and Connect

Help and Connect by Grapevine is for autistic and learning disabled people in Coventry to make a plan, get connections, get work, stay healthy and stay safe.

Funded by Coventry City Council, our connectors help people with their most pressing needs first then equip them with skills, knowledge, support networks and readiness for what’s next.

We work in a wide variety of person-centred ways – strengthening people, bringing opportunities and helping them take charge of their lives.

Click here for six more stories that illustrate this work.

To refer yourself or someone you know to Help and Connect, email