‘It’s a shock to be told your child has autism. People kept signposting us to Daisy Chain but I didn’t initially want to admit Brooke needed extra support.’
Brooke was diagnosed before she reached five-years-old. Now 7, Becca began to see, as time moved on, that she would benefit from a specialist environment that Daisy Chain could offer.
She and husband Robert did not know a huge amount about autism so they attended Daisy Chain’s Early Bird Plus Programme – a 10-week course for parents of children aged 4 to 9.
‘We really enjoyed Early Birds, we found it really insightful to learn about autism and begin to understand Brooke’s behaviours. Before Early Birds we knew very little about autism and found it hard to understand what was going on in Brooke’s head and why she did the things she did.’
One extremely valuable tool they discovered was learning about visual aids and prompts. Becca and Robert have three children – Alysha, 11, Brooke and son Frankie, 5 so school mornings can be particularly hectic in the household.
Becca explains, ‘Before the visual aids, Brooke would never get dressed for school and it was chaotic, an awful start to the day – we were all totally stressed by 7.30am. Now she will get herself dressed and even do her own hair. The visual aids are also great for activities. If we go shopping we have to tell her the order of the shops we will be going in but she couldn’t process a verbal list – now we show her.
‘Brooke is also very sensory, we were introduced to ear defenders and she also needs to touch things a lot. Planning is extremely important, we have had holidays ruined, days out ruined because we just had not prepared her well enough and that could have been avoided. Now we plan very carefully, we think everything through in advance because we understand that the slightest change can make a huge difference to Brooke.’
In learning to understand autism and Brooke, Becca has also learned what can be her own concerns and fears, ‘It was hard to think that Brooke might never have friends and not feel the pleasure of friendship but that is more my anxiety – it doesn’t worry Brooke at all.’
Becca has benefited from attending the Links support group for parents and carers, ‘I did struggle with the diagnosis and being told she had autism. I was in denial but as she got older her needs became more apparent. People kept telling me about Daisy Chain and Links meetings are so helpful. Just being able to talk to other parents and not feel like you are on your own makes a big difference. Then when I heard about Early Birds, I jumped at the chance.
‘When you have a child with autism, you do worry that they take up so much of your time that you don’t get to spend enough time with your other children. Learning at Daisy Chain how to better manage Brooke’s behaviours means there is more time to spend with the other two. It also improves the quality of our time together as a family.
‘Also, if she can manage better when we are out and in social situations, it’s better for her. There is no real need for people to think she is different.’
Currently Brooke is around two years behind in education and Becca says Daisy Chain has stepped in for her in this area. ‘Daisy Chain has been a massive help in advising us how to get the support Brooke needs in school as well as funding.’
Brooke now attends an after-school club, ‘She takes part in so many activities that she would have previously been extremely anxious about but she loves Daisy Chain – she said to me ‘I like it here mam because people are the same as me’.
‘Frankie loves going to Daisy Chain too and Brooke loves showing him around on family activities days.’
‘I would advise anyone to get in touch with Daisy Chain, it’s much better to get help than to struggle along without it.’