Joanne Ryan says Daisy Chain has been a beacon in the darkness for her and her family since Conrad, now 11, was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

 Three years ago, she was given a leaflet with Daisy Chain’s details. ‘I wasn’t sure if we could get Conrad there, he doesn’t like to go out of the house. When we got there, he wouldn’t go in the building so the staff came out and got him to do some little tasks outside. Eventually they got him inside and he managed a little while. We built up from there until Conrad grew in confidence. But from that first day we both felt a sense of belonging and acceptance at Daisy Chain.

 ‘Conrad can be very boisterous as he deals with coping with the world around him and the impact on his senses so going anywhere with him can be an issue. Even at nursery if they changed the room in any way he would not be able to cope.’ He continued to struggle at school and Joanne had to constantly go and collect him.

 Joanne says, ’I will be forever grateful for the support of Daisy Chain through some of the darkest of times. When he was out of education he was helped by the one-to-one service and kept engaged. We even made a video about him for his Educational Health Care Plan (EHCP) with the help of Daisy Chain. The Saturday activity day is brilliant, we can get out of the house and enjoy a safe environment.’

So impressed was Joanne with the help and support she received, she decided to give something back and volunteered with the Daisy Chain fundraising team. Holding down a job when she was constantly called to school to collect Conrad when he was distressed proved impossible. ‘Daisy Chain gave me a job working on the sessions too. It gave me hope that we could get through the hard times.’

There have been some extremely challenging times over the years but Joanne is very proud now that Conrad’s older brother Declan, 20, is away studying at university. ‘It’s been hard for him too over the years as sometimes I wouldn’t be able to take him the places he wanted to go if I couldn’t get Conrad out of the house.

Joanne has now completed a degree and qualified as a teacher, starting a new role teaching year four in a primary school while Conrad has transferred to Beaumont Hill Academy in Darlington where he is thriving. ‘He was going into crisis in his previous school and I say if a flower is wilting, dying you don’t leave it where it is, you change its environment.

‘Every time we come to Daisy Chain it feels like the service is there just for us, we are recognised and cared for by every single member of staff there. They are there for you every step of the way and they go above and beyond to help.

‘The service has helped us cope through the dark time and thrive in the good times. It’s helped us get the support we needed for our son, understand his condition and deal with it in a positive way. It’s also helped Conrad’s communication and well-being significantly improve.’

23rd October 2017