When I heard Family Fund’s October blog theme was ‘Our Support Crew’ I was excited to celebrate the people that have been there for us as a family, especially over the past two years. I am often telling the people who support us how grateful I am, but it’s also great to celebrate these wonderful people in a blog post.

My family - My parents live a 5-minute drive away from our house as my partner Paul and I are unable to drive (for various reasons). I am so very grateful that my dad is always on hand to help out with travelling to one of the many appointments that I have to take Amber to. This may be for a hearing test at our local hospital, which is eight miles from our house or Occupational Therapy appointments; and even though Amber’s Paediatrician appointments are at our local medical practice, it’s difficult for me to keep Amber calm with her younger sister of 18 months present also. My dad will drive us to these appointments and then supervise my youngest, Maisie whilst I go in with Amber. My parents are extremely understanding of Amber’s difficulties; whenever I receive information or reports I place them in a folder and often photocopy them for my parents to refer to. They are very good at carrying on certain routines, if Amber goes over for the day, or stays for a few nights; they will use her visual timetables or sensory toys if they can see she’s getting a bit overloaded. Apart from Amber’s daddy, my mum is the only person that has witnessed Amber’s extreme sensory overloads; this is because Amber is very good at holding her overloads in. I have found that Amber will only display extreme meltdowns with those whom she is most comfortable in the company of – one being my mum.

Amber and her Nanna - My mum has 25 years of Early Years’ experience, she is the calmest person I have ever met and is so brilliant with Amber, she has also taken on some ‘Sensory Diet’ activities when Amber goes over, such as making sensory play dough. 

Amber and her Aunt - My sister is also Godmother to both Amber and Maisie, she too has helped out with appointments and will come over to play with the girls to give me a little ‘brain break!’ Their Aunt and Uncle are extremely good at role-playing ‘shops,’ which is currently a big hit with Amber! My sister recently stepped in and took over when I couldn’t move due to Sciatica in my back, changing and dressing and giving the girls their meals. 

Amber and my cousin - My cousin, who works in childcare, has a great rapport with Amber, only last month she drove us to a local ‘messy play’ session which Amber thrived on. 

Amber and Paul's family - As I wrote in a previous Family Fund Blog post, Paul’s dad’s family are a fantastic support when we take the girls to visit them in Somerset. Even though there is distance, and we would love to live closer, the support and advice is there via weekly ‘Face Time’ via mobile phone with Paul’s sister and niece, and a weekly phone call to Paul’s dad keeps him up-to-date with all our going’s on! We find that Social Media sites allow us to keep up-to-date even though we live 1 ½ hours apart. 

Amber and her Anut and cousins - Amber and her cousin have a strong bond – its lovely seeing them holding hands whilst going down the slide! When Amber’s Aunty and Cousin visit she loves trips to the park.

Friends and neighbours - We have a fantastic network of friends and neighbours, this network grew once we moved to our current home in August 2015, and I got speaking to some of the other parents at Amber’s Pre-School. Many of these friends are regularly kept up-to-date with Amber’s progress, before meeting these lovely people, I was extremely anxious about taking Amber on a play-date in case she was to hurt another child. My friends have been so encouraging and have taken note that Amber’s play-date time limit is around two hours, and will be aware if Amber starts experiencing sensory overloads.

One of these wonderful friends lives only two doors away, she is Maisie’s Godmother and such a great support to our family. Friends have taken us on trips to local parks, animal parks, our local countryside centre and we’ve had a lovely walk through the woods together, which Amber – being an ‘outdoors’ girl, absolutely loved! Our friends are very understanding of Amber’s difficulties and many have reported how she makes them laugh with her infectious personality! When my parents were away on holiday, one friend even took us for one of Amber’s hospital appointments, even though they have children of their own, they always find the time to help us, and for this I am eternally grateful. 

Health professionals - When I first recognised that Amber had some difficulties when she was around two years old, we had quite a mixed response in terms of support. Often our parenting was scrutinised in the beginning as things hadn’t been looked into long enough and a great deal of Amber’s overloads were put down to the Terrible Two’s which I did have my doubts about. Because Amber’s behaviours at home were difficult past the age of two, then three, then four we knew that something needed to be looked into. We were extremely lucky to move back to the area covered by Amber’s Health Visitor from when she was first born, who knew our family well. When I explained the situation to this Health Visitor, she was the first professional who actually said to me: “I believe you.” She witnessed Amber at home, climbing onto furniture, not settling, and continually being on the move and sensory seeking. She then arranged for a referral to an Occupational Therapist. 

Educational Professionals - Amber had attended a few different childcare settings before our house move in August 2015. At first I was reluctant to move her to yet another setting, but the house move was a necessity as it was vital that we moved from our first floor flat to a house with a garden to benefit Amber’s love of the outdoors and to allow her to burn more energy. I was so glad that we made the move to her Pre-School as a member of staff first introduced us to the SMILE (Sensation Movement Interaction in Life Experiences) Centre in Malvern, Worcestershire which provides Amber with so much support in school holidays. The Pre School leader was the first practitioner to mention Sensory Processing to me, as I’d only come across one child in my 12 years in Education. This practitioner organised monthly TAC (Team around the Child) meetings to ensure that Amber received the best level of support from Pre-School and support us as a whole family also. The Pre-School leader ensured that Amber’s transition over to school was smooth via an in-depth hand-over and we are very grateful to the school’s inclusion manager who, in only three weeks of Amber attending, has already offered a tremendous amount of support and advice. 

Without our ‘support team’ we would be utterly lost, sometimes all that is needed is a listening ear, especially if it has been a tough day, it’s very easy to get caught up in our own family ‘bubble’ at home, and letting people in to help and support only makes us stronger.

Amber loves helping to take her Aunt and Uncle’s Dog, (Lenny) for a walk.

Read more of Nicki's blogs at Sensory Sensative Mummy