Amelia's Story Amelia is nine years old and lives with her mum Christine, dad Alan and younger sister Sophia in County Down. Amelia is autistic. Christine tells us that “Amelia was a very quiet child. As she got older, she wasn’t meeting her milestones, such as speech, eye contact or playing with her peers. She was diagnosed as autistic at three and a half years old.” Daily life and education for Amelia “Amelia is a fantastic child – she has her own little quirks. It can be very hard, then, and upsetting to see how people react to her outside.” Christine explains that Amelia uses verbal stimming as a coping mechanism. “Unfortunately sometimes she gets strange looks and I had an incident where Amelia said ‘hello’ (which is a massive achievement for her) to a person who was in the same isle as us in a shop and he stared at her and walked on.” Amelia currently attends a mainstream school with a full-time classroom assistant. “The school is fantastic. They are very supportive and go above and beyond to help her. Amelia requires full-time supervision – she has very poor social skills and is intellectually and academically below her class level.” Challenges for Amelia and her family Christine explains that when Amelia was first diagnosed, she found it difficult to find support with “eating, toilet training, sleep routine, Amelia running away and her meltdowns. I was unable to work and found it affected me both emotionally and mentally.” “Thankfully I found an organisation called Parents’ Education as Autism Therapists (PEAT) which provide applied behavioural analysis (ABA) therapy. This has been a game changer for us. We’ve been using ABA therapy for five years now and through that time I’ve been given the tools to help work with Amelia. As she gets older, we’re faced with new challenges, but we’re learning to work through them. We found using positive reinforcement and visuals work really well for her.” It can be very hard as a parent with a child who is autistic. "Amelia can’t go out and call for friends on her own or attend certain events because they can be overwhelming for her, which is heart breaking.” Though it can be challenging for both Amelia and her family, she has support systems. “She attends several afterschool activities and loves them – they help to develop her social skills. We try and make her life as happy for her as we can. She’ll always have limitations, but with the support we receive, it makes it easier for us to help her develop the skills she needs to cope throughout life.” How we’ve helped Christine first heard about Family Fund through PEAT, who encouraged her to apply. Family Fund have been able to help over a number of years, providing grants for family breaks, and an iPad. Amelia’s most recent grant was for a hot tub. How it’s made a difference “The iPad has been so beneficial for her learning and social skills – she uses it daily which is amazing!” Christine explains that being able to get Amelia a hot tub has been a life saver. “Considering the current Coronavirus pandemic and Amelia’s life being turned upside down, the hot tub has been a life saver for her. It’s been a place where she can be calm and relax.” “She’s so happy and content. It really makes such a difference when you can see that smile on her face.” “I can’t thank Family Fund enough for all their support. Having their help makes such a difference in Amelia’s life and our family are forever grateful.” Find out more about applying to Family Fund.