Thursday, 28 August 2014

Summer, Autism and The Zone!

2 years ago I wrote about our summer and how having an autistic child effected us.  When I look back it was a very hard time for us.  What I wrote at that time, touched upon our lives to give a flavour but I held a lot back.  It was hard (emotionally and physically draining) - there is no other way to put it. This is because we were still new to autism, accepting the diagnosis and were unsupported.  Its not that our friends or family at that time didn't care, its just there was not a lot people could do to actually help.  I didn't know of any other parents that I could talk to about raising a child with autism.  Whilst some friends knew or met someone with autism, it is not the same as raising a child as each and every person with autism is very unique.  I was still getting over the stereo typical image of autism myself and understanding what the diagnosis meant for us.  There were not any support groups or activities, we were left to get on with it. The one disability play scheme in our old area, expelled us. There was a support group for families with disabled children but it was catered for children with more obvious disabilities and it was hard to fit in when your child's disability is hidden, meaning he looks like a typical child.  All in all, it was very isolating. I didn't declare all the things we went through in our day to day but if people asked I would tell them.  I guess at the time I was fearful at what our future held and that it would put others off from us, therefore isolating us further. A lot of time and energy went into appearing 'normal'.
Whilst Farnborough may not appear to offer anything compared to Poole and Bournemouth, there is actually a lot here to do for us as a family.  Farnborough may not have the beach or the shops or the nightlife but what they do offer is accessibility.  When we first moved we attended the National Autistic Society (NAS) Farnborough Branch, it is now a charity in its own right called 'The Zone' This has been a haven for us.  There are weekly afterschool clubs and a club that runs every other Saturday.  At these clubs there is the chance to socialise (as much as ASD children do) with lots of laptops (minecraft), latest consoles, handheld gaming, crafts and toys.  In the summer sessions, they also have bouncy castle, outdoor toys and go carts.  Oh and I mustn't forget the biscuits, as my kids love them.  It is also a chance to talk to other parents who are experiencing the same things as you and makes you realise how 'un-alone' we are.  Its a place to feel 'normal' when family life seems very un-normal compared to everyone else or how we expected it to be.  There is no judgement when meltdowns and wobbles occur, special interests are welcomed too. 
During the holidays there are activities scheduled both 'in' and 'out' of The Zone.  My sons really look forward to this and it is for the whole family to access.  When we were going through the diagnosis I would have loved to attended a group like this, it would have helped us so much.  As my son didn't fit my perceived image of autism it led to lots of confusion.  The day out trips are lots of fun.  My children loved the London Zoo day out, Thames Valley Playground, bowling, donutting, laser quest - lots of things I wouldn't even of been able to dream about doing without lots of support or personally hiring out the venue exclusively.  There is a fortnightly coffee morning to help with the mountain of paperwork, a sensory and book library.  It is a great support and as the children get older there is the Teen Zone.  I am also thankful for their Facebook page, a chance to talk and air grievances in a closed setting. Its also a great chance to find out about different things going on in the area and where to go to get support on different issues.
Hampshire also offers Shorbreaks, Gateway card which funds 1 to 1 support in mainstream activities, which we have also used.  This has had mixed results.  They also give funding to groups like The Zone.  This is why I shared the petition to stop the cuts to Shortbreaks funding as it helps us as a family do things that other families would take for granted. 

There are specific disability play scheme offers too.  My son is currently using Rushmoor and East Hants Kids scheme, for ages 8+ and has really enjoyed the days out (once we finally manage to get him on the bus).  We also go to the monthly swimming fun sessions with Disability Challengers.  Our children really enjoy this and its a great chance to just have fun together as a family. 

We have also been to the Lions fun-fest fun day which is for families with disabled children.  This is held yearly but my children have loved all the fun games and rides.  We have also done craft activities for families with disabled children organised by PAGS.

So whilst I do miss the beautiful beaches and our lovely friends from Bournemouth and Poole, there is plenty to keep us busy here!

1 comment:

  1. sound wonderful. we have and still are really struggling in Devon - defo could not afford to re-locate - we get direct payments for Clive to do activities which has really helped. Childminders in the area wont take our kids - play schemes struggle - Clive is in Beavers but I am now a leader (they would not allow enablers) - we get no break no rest - we have tried to get him into a disability play scheme but they are full this summer and very very expensive. - Devon like to main stream if poss - we are lucky the primary he is currently in includes him in everything but secondary is looming and very worrying - Blake starts school in sept - we got him statmented but it has been hell and obtaining speech therapy has been a mightmare. Have been loosing pacience a lot this summer and a few days ago dropped a drink and totally lost the plot so fed up could not do anything just cried... We had Clive's diagnosis 3 yrs ago now. Blake we are still moving slowly towards narrowing things down. Am glad you have found a good deal in Hampshire - they were really good for Dyslexia when I was a kid.