“Family Fund was a lifeline in a really tough time”
Making sure our staff feel fully supported is a priority for Family Fund. Last year, we partnered with York Mind to deliver over twenty mental health and wellbeing training sessions to our teams.
For the trainer who delivered the sessions, Mark, it was a full circle moment, after being helped by Family Fund fifteen years’ earlier.
“I did some of the sessions on my own time as I wanted to give back to the charity who helped us years ago.”
Mark and Helen have two daughters now in their twenties, Emilie and Lucie. They were both diagnosed early with autism, before the age of two, and also have epilepsy and severe learning difficulties.
Mark and his family
“In 2007, Lucie was ten and Emilie eight. The biggest challenge we faced when they were that age was their interaction with each other and their different needs. They needed routine and for things to be consistent. Yet you can’t get anything more unpredictable than a sister who is also autistic and who might suddenly go into meltdown. They are total opposites to each other in many ways. Lucie is quiet and calm and hypersensitive to noise, and Emilie likes to bounce on things and make loud sounds.
“It was a really difficult few years. I was working full time in financial services doing long hours and Helen was finding things hard on her own with the girls. We decided I’d make a career change, so I could spend more time at home with Lucie and Emilie, and make the move into teaching which I’d always wanted to do. But the change to studying again and not working full time meant we found ourselves really struggling financially. For those three or four years we had to completely cut back on absolutely everything.”
How Family Fund helped
“We turned to Family Fund and were provided with a couple of grants, primarily to help us with Emilie, as her obsession with bouncing on things, which a lot of children with autism share, meant we were having to spend a lot of money on replacing furniture that got broken. At the time we were going through a bed every six months for her, which we just couldn’t afford.
“We used the grant to buy a special type of bed which was really strong and durable. It was expensive and we couldn’t have bought it without support from Family Fund.
“We were also able to buy a trampoline, which made a huge, huge difference. It meant she was able to bounce on something safely and without damaging anything in the house. We were really blown away by the help we received from Family Fund. It was a bit of a lifeline in a really tough time.”
“It was hard when the girls were younger but we laughed an awful lot with them too and they really have thrived. One routine, which led to some funny looks from the neighbours, was Em going out into the tent in the garden for ten minutes before she would go to sleep [as] one of her routines. It was great in the summer but during the winter months, not so much. One night, she completely refused to go to bed before we went out in a total blizzard! We were sat out in the tent with the storm raging around us and the tent nearly lifting off the ground!
“Emilie is now 23, and living in supported housing which has been a real success. She does various activities during the day and has friends there. She still loves bouncing, as well as anything sensory, music and games.
“Lucie is 25 and lives with us, at home, in her own set of rooms. She goes to the Autism Hub nearby where she is developing life skills and does other activities during the week including cycling. Lucie really likes horses, owls and nature, and she loves listening to music – on our car journeys, I’m treated to Ronan Keating on repeat!
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