Five year old Brianna and sister Kiera are much like any other siblings. They squabble, argue and fight but Brianna depends so much on her sibling that Kiera almost has a caring role. This can be particularly difficult for Kiera as she cannot be like her peers. “It’s hard for Kiera”, says mum Christine. “We have to be careful what we do and where we go in case Brianna has a meltdown. Kiera keeps asking if she can have friends over for a sleepover but this would just be confusing for Brianna. Kiera asks why she can’t have a normal sibling like everyone else”.

Christine first noticed unusual behaviours in Brianna when she was very young – lack of eye contact , lining objects and finger foods up in lines, outbursts of frustration, lack of sensitivity to pain, slow language development. Brianna was finally diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder when she was three. If strict routines are not kept Brianna becomes tearful, distressed and agitated. Brianna has no sense of danger and is very sensitive to noise and touch.

Although Brianna gets upset with any changes in routine and her parents find it difficult to keep her calm and settled, Brianna can be a happy child. She loves to sing and dance and has watched the Disney film ‘Frozen’ so many times she knows it word for word.

The family first heard about the Family Fund from their Health Visitor and made an application for outings to keep Brianna occupied during the long school holidays. “Brianna loves White House Farm and Beamish”, says mum. “She loves to feed the animals and seems to stay calm when she’s around them. Kiera goes to brownies and swimming after school but Brianna would find it difficult to cope with the change in routine, so it’s a balancing act trying to accommodate both the needs of Brianna but also Kiera.”