Asking for help can be a hard thing to do, even more so when you are the parent of a child with SEN (Special Education Needs) and you want to feel like you have everything under control. But with raising a child with a disability costing three times more than a child without, and the cost of specialist equipment, it can get quite overwhelming.

We first heard about Family Fund when Lyla was two years old. She had recently been diagnosed with autism and had started at a special needs nursery. I was still coming to terms with her diagnosis and how it would affect her day to day life, it was already quite apparent that the lack of communication was one of the things that caused her the most frustration. We had been trying PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) and Makaton but she didn’t seem engaged and it was disheartening to know that she didn’t have a “voice”.

I googled communication in autism and came across some videos on YouTube of a girl in America using some AAC (Alternative and Augmentative Communication) software called Proloquo2go. It looked amazing but the price tag was high and, in addition, an iPad was needed to run it on. Back in 2011, iPads weren’t so widely used by children as they are now, they had only been out a year and were very costly. 

I remember speaking to Lyla’s portage worker and said if only I had the funds, I had seen this amazing communication software, and she asked if I had heard of Family Fund. After she left, I called the number she gave me and asked for an application pack to be posted out.

It was the first time we had ever applied for any charity funding and I did feel slightly guilty, like maybe there were other children that would need or benefit from the grant more than Lyla but I also felt how life changing it would be for her to able to communicate. I had nothing to lose by applying. 

I sent the forms and relevant paperwork back in, we were so grateful when the application was accepted. Shortly before Lyla’s third birthday we were granted an iPad and a contribution towards the AAC software. Lyla and her iPad have been inseparable ever since. It was so amazing to see that she could actually make decisions, just not verbally, and she became a whizz at shape sorting and puzzles. The iPad also became a distraction for Lyla when we went out in public and we were able to start visiting family more and going to shops and restaurants.

With Family Fund, you can reapply after 12 months so as well as the iPad, Lyla has benefited from an enclosed trampoline, sensory toys, a family break to Butlin's and a Lay-Z-Spa hot tub which was a lifesaver this summer due to the lockdown restrictions. 

I have suggested Family Fund to other parents in the past, but I feel there is a huge stigma around charity funding. Everyone’s situation is unique and different and there really is no shame in asking for a helping hand if needed. I can also honestly say that the team at Family Fund are so friendly and accommodating. “Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help and brave enough to ask for it.”

Read more about Lyla's Autism Journey on Scarlett's blog page Apple of my eye or read more from our Family Fund Bloggers.

Find out how to apply for a Family Fund grant here.