Sunday, 30 May 2010
After my rather melacholy post last time I promised J's Dad that this one would be much more positive... and it is.
When J was diagnosed there was a lady in attendance who is manager of the local special needs centre. Hilary set up SNAP with other parents in the 1990s when she realised how woefully inadequate the support services for parents of children with special needs were. Over the years SNAP has expanded and grown and now has it's own premises in the grounds of the old Warley Hospital. It is well used by families all over south Essex and runs a variety of courses and groups for parents and children. One of these groups is SNAPTASTIC a "stay and play" group aimed at children 5-13. At £3.50 a session it is very affordable and once the Disability Living Allowance has been agreed (not holding my breath on that one) will be a regular activity for J.
The session is based around fun and support for both children and parents, the centre is fully open and there are plenty of activities for the children. Upstairs in the meeting room there is seating, biscuits and tea or coffee for the parents. While the parents drink tea and chat the parent advisors circulate and are ready to offer support and advice as needed. Meanwhile downstairs in the playroom an army of staff and volunteers play with the children and supervise the SNAPTASTIC session.
J has attended only one session so far as they are not weekly and immedietly made a friend. A is 7 like J and also like J is on the autistic spectrum. J and A met at the door of the session and seemingly recognised kindred spirits in each other. Once the door to the playroom was opened they were off to run, jump, dress up in the costumes and have fun. The supervisors and volunteers had a hard job just persuading them both to stop and have a drink as the sweat poured off them both. Everyone commented on the fact that they seemed to be long lost friends who had known each other all their lives! It was great to see and J did not look for me in a whole hour. While J was playing hard downstairs I was able to wander upstairs to drink coffee and talk with other parents including A's Mum. It was so helpful to do this as I recognised so many similar problems between J and some of the other children. In many ways it was a bittersweet experience, J had so much fun and that was wonderful to see, but in seeing him enjoying the session I also recognised the fact that it was with these special children that J fitted in perfectly well - a confirmation of the diagnosis if you like.
So June approaches and J has been booked in for more SNAPTASTIC sessions and also the drama group which starts in June too. I have booked myself onto a series of four workshops looking at various aspects of daily living - sleeping, eating, dressing and toiletting all focused on the needs of the school age child on the autistic spectrum. This means that there will be times when we not only attend the centre twice in one week but on occasions twice in one day.... I can't wait.