Autism support charity Daisy Chain has expanded its services with a new parent support group in Hartlepool.Hartlepool Links

A demand for services closer to home for Hartlepool families sparked the move and mum Natalie Wale believes Daisy Chain is making a real difference in her family life.

Son Lucas, seven, has autism and four-year-old daughter Amelia is currently going through the diagnostic process. Natalie has found the journey to be extremely emotional. When Lucas was 18 months he stopped talking and Natalie had to reduce her working hours to cope with the number of appointments with health care professionals that she needed to attend.

Natalie explained, ‘His nursery told me he was always sitting alone, lining toys up and flapping. If I knew then what I know now I would have picked up something was wrong. When the educational psychologist told me that there was a lot to suggest he was on the autistic spectrum I just burst into tears. I crumbled with the fear of not knowing what was going to happen.

‘Lucas is what I would call text book autistic – he babbles, jumps constantly and he is socially often oblivious to other children. Amelia suffers with meltdowns if there is even a little change in routine.’

Natalie, 32, doesn’t mind admitting she felt very emotional going through the diagnosis but says it has made her and husband Lee as well as stepdaughter Lucy stronger as a family. ‘Having the Links support group here in Hartlepool is fantastic, meeting other parents who are going through very similar experiences is so helpful. It makes you feel that you are not alone, not so isolated in what can be very traumatic times.’

Since joining the parent support group, Natalie and the whole family have visited the Daisy Chain day centre and farm at Norton for a number of activity days. ‘It’s an amazing place, the kids really love it, playing with the diggers in the sand or doing arts and crafts. I can take Lucas into the sensory room if he needs some time to be calm, you don’t have all that in mainstream environments.’

The Hartlepool Links parent support group is funded by NHS Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees Clinical Commissioning Group which allocates funds to the Health Initiatives Programme run by Catalyst, Stockton’s Voluntary Development Agency.  Meetings are every Monday morning 10.00am until 12 noon at West View Resource Centre on Miers Avenue. Parents and carers of anyone with autism or undergoing diagnosis are welcome to attend.

Natalie added, ‘Sometimes weekends can be stressful and it’s amazing to have somewhere to go and talk to other parents, get advice and information as well as know you are not alone. It would be great to see more parents coming along to get the support.’

Stuart Dexter, Daisy Chain chief executive said, ‘We know how important it is for parents and carers to meet with each other and not feel so isolated. We have run a parents group at Daisy Chain for the whole of the 15 years since the charity was founded and parents tell us how beneficial they find it. There is also the opportunity to benefit from expert speakers to help in all areas from coping strategies, the latest research and financial advice.’