Autism West Midlands has launched the UK’s first social networking site for people with autism.

The site, which went live last week, is called ‘Connect’ and has been developed by the charity in order to let members of the autism community interact and share experiences with each other.

Sarah Francis, head of marketing and communication at Autism West Midlands, said the website is free to use for anyone who wants to.

“Autism is an invisible, misunderstood, and sometimes lonely, disability,” she said.

“We hope that Connect provides a safe space for people with autism and their families to discuss challenges they are facing, make friends and learn about autism."

The charity claims that Connect is the first autism social network in the UK and aims to encourage people with autism to engage with the community and develop relationships with people who share their experience.

The website features profile building, status updates and private messaging.

 It also reaches out to parents and carers in the autism community as dealing with the condition can leave many feeling isolated from society and aims to offer an accessible way for families, friends and carers to share their stories, offer advice and receive support from an online community of members.

Penny King, the mother of an autistic child said that she hoped the site would help her cope.

“As a parent to a child with autism you have so many questions and don't know where to turn. It can be very isolating and lonely,” she said.

“An online support network specific to autism will be great. It will be amazing to have somewhere we can log on when things get hard, and know that other users really understand what we’re going through."

In addition to the social networking aspect of the site, it also features a question and answer page, events calendar, e-learning packages and a service directory where users can rate and review businesses and providers relevant to the autism community.

The site is funded by the Department for Education.