Mum Claire recalls visiting the farm at the annual May Open Day after being given a leaflet when Harry began the diagnosis process at three-and-a-half years old, “And we’ve never been away since,” she smiles.
Harry attends the after-school club for the three to seven years age range and sister Ellie, 11, goes to Sibz club.
Says Claire, “Daisy Chain has been great for us as a whole family but especially for Ellie to start to understand Harry and learn about autism. She is very protective of him but there can be tough times at home on occasion. Daisy Chain has helped Ellie cope better as she has also met other children with different needs and learned a lot about the condition.”
Husband Chris grins, “It has helped them become even closer as Harry absolutely adores Ellie and he will do more for Ellie than Claire sometimes or he’ll defend her saying ‘stop telling her off!’”
Claire and Chris knew Harry was different as a baby, “He didn’t develop the same as Ellie had but people say boys are lazier so it gets put down to that. However, when he went to nursery he wouldn’t sit still, he would play on his own and sometimes he would appear to be naughty. Harry was very verbal but he couldn’t communicate clearly, he speech was delayed. Nursery would often ask me to collect him earlier and I would arrive to find him hiding under a table.”
It was the nursery that advised Claire to get Harry assessed when he was three and he has been diagnosed with autism and hypermobility. He is now undergoing assessment for ADHD, dyspraxia and sensory processing disorder.
Says Claire, “I thought it might be ADHD but none of us had a clue about what autism was. We researched it online and could immediately see that it was exactly like Harry.”
Despite his diagnosis, Harry doesn’t have an Education Health Care Plan (EHCP). “We need to get one to ensure his needs are met. It’s not easy ensuring you do get everything you need, it can be a struggle. I’ve been told he does not need one. We have been having issues with Harry not wanting to go to school, getting very anxious about the day ahead. He’s even made himself sick to avoid going to school.
“Harry is classed as high functioning but he still needs one-to-one support in school and I am trying to get him that. He can get easily distracted and once he is distracted he can’t go back to what he was doing. We want our son to have the support he needs to reach his full potential.”
Claire and Chris are delighted that both Harry and Ellie have made friends at Daisy Chain, “It’s a lovely, tranquil environment, never overly loud and we all feel really comfortable at the farm. You get to know the other families and the children. Harry loves being with Ellie and it’s great to have somewhere they can do activities together.”
The couple have had episodes in mainstream environments. “Harry can get anxious and I have seen other children laughing at him, you do feel people staring. Once he came home and asked how he could grow a thicker skin, literally because someone had told him he needed to deal with other children’s reactions to him. He can be easily wound up and sometimes he is taunted to get him to react in a negative way.
“It is very upsetting for us as parents. It’s why Daisy Chain is so important to us. There’s no judgement there, everyone is there for the same reason and that means you can really relax.”
Claire is now undertaking a Level 2 qualification in understanding autism and challenging behaviour and she hopes she may move on to complete a degree in early years education. “I want to learn everything I need to know to ensure Harry gets everything he is entitled to and what he needs. It’s up to us to ensure he gets the right start in life, the right support and an education that is best for him and not stressful. It’s good that in this area we have Daisy Chain to turn to for help and advice. I don’t know what people do if they don’t have somewhere like that where they live.”