Harrison is eight years old and lives with his mum Laura, dad Chris and his younger sister Maddison, in Birmingham. Harrison has autism and is non-verbal. As Laura explains, “It’s very challenging on a daily basis. Harrison can’t communicate his needs to us so all we can do its second guess what he’s actually trying to communicate with us. He still wears nappies and needs constant supervision, care and attention 24/7. He rarely sleeps and has lots of energy.” Harrison currently takes medicine to help him sleep.

Laura tells us that Harrison’s younger sister “loves Harrison so much and is very understanding. With her only being five years old sometimes she finds it difficult to understand that we can’t do the things most families do.”

Due to Harrison’s diagnosis he also has high sensory needs. “He likes anything that spins – spinning bottles, spinning DVD discs. He also likes bouncing on an exercise ball, bouncing on a trampoline. He loves to play with his swing and watching Mickey Mouse, In the Night Garden, Jungle Junction and Curious George.”

                                       

 

Daily life for Harrison

“Harrison has to follow a rigid daily routine as it helps him understand what’s going to happen, what’s now and what’s next. School, tea time, bath time and bed time is the same every day.” Harrison currently attends a specialist autism school where he goes five times a week and he has a developmental age of around 12-16 months. “He travels by transport provided by the local authority and loves school. He copes well when he’s there.”

“We have a family support worker and Harrison has carers to allow us respite. We referred ourselves to a social worker to get extra help in place not only for Harrison but for our daughter as well. We have carers who come in for 10 hours each month and we receive good support from the school as well.”

Challenges for the family

“My husband works full-time and I’ve had to give up my job as there isn’t anybody available to care for Harrison if he isn’t at school. With the amount of appointments we have to attend I felt it wasn’t fair to keep taking time off work. Plus, to be honest, it made me stressed. But being out of the workplace has had massive impact on my wellbeing. I miss the chance to socialise and have adult conversations, the type of things that as an adult bring a sort of self-worth.”

“It’s hard and sometimes I do find myself lost in self-pity. We recently planned a lovely picnic with our friends and family and in that sort of situation Harrison just couldn’t cope. One of our friends asked me what was wrong with him and after more or less eight years of trying to second guess what was wrong and I actually snapped and shouted, telling them I had no idea what was wrong. It could have been anything from the light being too bright or that he feels poorly.”

“It’s such a challenge getting the right balance for both Harrison and Maddison and we try our best. We want him to live his life and not just exist in the world without experiencing it. It might seem negative but at the same time when I get to see how happy he is and how he sees beauty in everything and everyone, it keeps me going. He’s the best little person I know – maybe not at 2am, because I need my sleep, but truly, he’s such a beautiful little boy with the best smile and the best cuddles.”

                            

 

How we helped

Laura first heard about Family Fund through their family support worker, and as she says, “the grants have been a life saver.” Since first applying when Harrison was three years old, the family have received five family break grants as well as a grant for outdoor play equipment. “They’re great – the breaks and the equipment, Harrison loves his swing. We’ve had a number of breaks which means we can all enjoy our time as a family. Because of Harrison’s condition some have been more successful than others – but now I think we’ve found the right place for Harrison to enjoy."

                         

 

How it’s made a difference

The family often have to go on separate breaks not only for Harrison but for his younger sister as well. “Breaks are so expensive and we can’t guarantee how long we will last either. Usually it’s two days max.”

“Last year we got invited to go on a break abroad but there was no way Harrison was going to be ready for anything like that. It’s a difficult situation because we didn’t want Maddison to miss out on the opportunity so we decided to split the holiday – I flew out with Maddison whilst my husband stayed at home with Harrison, and he flew out to meet us two days later. I quickly showed Chris around our room and then I was on my way back to the airport to fly home to be with Harrison. The holiday cost a fortune and we thought Maddison would love it and both myself and Chris could relax.”

“Instead Maddison missed Chris, and then myself, and she missed Harrison so much. She couldn’t understand why were we separate, especially when we were watching the other family who we went with all together – mum, dad and siblings.”

This experience led Laura to look at family breaks that would suit Harrison and earlier this year they went to Trecco Bay in Wales, booking the break through Inspire. “We rented a sea view lodge and three bedrooms. We know Harrison loves to watch birds and would love the seagulls and the sea. The lodge was also big enough for Harrison to have enough room with all the items we have to bring from home to help him feel comfortable.”

                    

“We made sure the lodge had a large decking area so Harrison could be free to wander but also be safe and we went during term time so it wouldn’t be as busy for him.”

“It was a lovely break and all of us had a lovely time. We went on the Friday and lasted until Sunday and we couldn’t have afforded it without the help of Family Fund. We’re hopefully going to go back again in the coming year.”

Find out more about our grants and how to apply