Archie and Chiara are five and three, and live in Exeter with their mum Becci, dad Lee, and little brother Sebastian who is 20 months old. All three children have additional needs.
Becci says “Archie and Chiara are both diagnosed autistic, non-verbal, with high care needs. Sebastian has severe delays in all areas and is being tested for autism.”
Archie and Chiara’s story was first featured in or #RealCosts of Christmas campaign, highlighting how the costs of living increase during the holiday seasons.
Having three children with additional needs has led to a lot of changes for the family. “We had to cut our work down from being managers to part-time jobs”.
As a result, “we’ve got a very tight budget. When it gets to the week before payday we’ve had to face the reality of turning things down or off so that we can make things last. We turn the boiler down or off to try and save on that.”
“We just kind of check out of Christmas. Like most things, it’s something that we can’t do as a family. We can’t participate in so many aspects, and we can’t afford it anyway, so it’s almost easier to act like it’s not happening.”
“It’s been a case of relying on grandparents to buy them presents. Making Christmas special, with very little money to spend, is difficult. I’ve been in tears the last few Christmases, I remember walking in town looking in all of the toy shop windows thinking, I’m struggling to put food on the table, so I definitely can’t buy any presents. It’s upsetting and almost embarrassing to admit that I can’t buy Christmas presents for my children.”
How Family Fund helped
Family Fund provided the family with a grant for sensory toys. This included a ‘whizzy dizzy’ which improves coordination and motor skills, as well as fibre optic lights.
The family are also using the sensory equipment to build a dark den for Chiara. “All three kids share a bedroom because we only have a two bed house, so Chiara doesn’t necessarily get the space to be on her own and avoid Archie when she needs to. We’re going to build a dark den under Archie’s bed with some heavy fabric and light up toys.”
“They don’t really play with normal toys at all and the sensory ones are more expensive.”
The grant from Family Fund allows all of the children to access equipment that helps fulfil their sensory needs.
“They really help all of the children. They help Archie be more active and get his energy out. Whereas the dark den we’re making is more suited for Chiara to be a calm space, which Sebastian seems to like too. So sensory equipment is important for all of our children, but in very different ways.”
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