Memory of autistic Moray woman Lucy Smith to be honoured with creation of Lucy's Lights group
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THE memory of an autistic Moray woman is being honoured by friends who have set up a charitable group in her name.
Like many autistic women, Forres local Lucy Smith was diagnosed with the condition late in life after years of struggle. She took her own life in June 2023.
While in hospital, Lucy met two girls – 10 years or so younger than her – who would come to be her close friends.
With the creation of Lucy's Lights, Millie Nicoll (21) and Rachel Mitchell (20), both autistic themselves, will carry on their friend's legacy.
The group has been set up to support autistic women and girls in Moray. Its aim is to create safe spaces to meet up and partake in autism-friendly activities, tackling social isolation.
It is open to girls of all ages, who have either been diagnosed with autism for years, recently been diagnosed or are awaiting a diagnosis.
Millie, from Elgin, said: "Me and Rachel met Lucy in hospital. We were all there because of our mental health. She had recently been diagnosed as autistic and we were already diagnosed so we made a friendship.
"It was Lucy's idea to set up the group for girls with autism because she knew what it was like growing up with no diagnosis. She went through most of her life without knowing she was different.
"Unfortunately, Lucy took her own life on June 22. When she took her own life, me and Rachel wanted to keep the idea going because that's what she wanted.
"She was a really nice person who just wanted to help everyone."
Millie herself was diagnosed as autistic at 16 after having a mental health episode. Rachel, who is also from Forres, was similar. This is a common theme for many girls.
The pair know exactly how hard it is to understand and to learn about being autistic late in life – and want to help others who are facing the same struggles they did.
"We understand the challenges that come with being on the spectrum," Millie said.
"Girls are usually diagnosed late in life due to masking. Girls with autism are very good at copying other people's behaviours to fit in, copying they way they talk and act.
"That is one reason we are often missed. A lot of girls present with a mental health crisis and then it is realised that it is autism.
"Our aim is to provide support to girls who have autism or are looking for a diagnosis, and to make sure people don't feel alone because it can be a lonely journey and it is all a bit confusing.
"Our other aim is to provide activities and opportunities to people that wouldn't otherwise be accessible."
The group has come together with several others throughout Moray to arrange a series of fun sessions for attendees.
The first group meeting took place at a farm Broom of Moy farm on Sunday, November 19, where those attending were able to get up close and personal with animals.
Such was its success, those who attended were calling for a second meet up as soon as possible.
In the future, Lucy's Lights hope to be able to organise surfing sessions with SurfABLE Scotland, set up sessions at Oakwood Cookery Group, attend trampoline parks and take part in an array of activities with outdoor adventure charity Outfit Moray.
All sessions are adapted to make sure everyone can take part.
The group is aiming to meet once a fortnight starting in the New Year. All women are welcome to turn up to meetings and events.
Lucy's Lights is hosting its first fundraiser – a quiz night at Elgin Town Hall – on January 12, with a 7pm start.
For information on tickets and more about the organisation, visit lucyslights.com