Message of gratitude for support during health crisis
The parents of a three-year-old boy from St Thomas, in Exeter, have publicly thanked Caudwell Children, the national charity that provides practical and emotional support to disabled children and their families, for agreeing to fund a pack of tactile sensory equipment for their son.
Harry, was diagnosed with autism in January of this year and the condition has left him non-verbal. He also has sensory processing difficulties and, together with the delays in his social communication skills, he finds it difficult to socialise with other children.
“Harry’s behaviour suddenly changed when he was 10 months old,” explained his mother Natalie. “He stopped making eye contact and the words that he used to say, like dada, just dried up, he simply stopped communicating.
“Overnight he suddenly didn’t want to eat what he had eaten previously and as much as I’d try to get him to look into my eyes he wouldn’t do it, and it broke my heart.”
Harry was late at crawling and walking and when he was finally able to stand he would spin on the spot and flap his arms.
“When I took him to toddler class he stood out like a sore thumb,” continued Natalie, aged 29. “All the other children would be trying to chat to each other and would be walking around, but Harry just wouldn’t engage with them.”
Due to extensive waiting lists Harry had to wait for over a year for an assessment and diagnosis.
He recently started receiving support from an occupational therapist and they told Natalie, and her 29-year-old husband Shane, that multi-sensory equipment can have a calming effect on a child with a sensory condition.
“The occupational therapist told us about Caudwell Children and the funding support they give to children like Harry,” said Shane. “So we looked at the specialist sensory equipment that would best suit Harry’s needs and we were staggered to find out that it would cost £963, which was way beyond our budget.”
Natalie applied to Caudwell Children for funding towards the equipment but due to the coronavirus crisis she said didn’t expect to hear anything back soon. “I was absolutely amazed when I received a letter from them in the post,” she exclaimed. “They agreed to fund 70% of the cost of a tactile sensory pack for Harry.
“I couldn’t believe that despite everything that is going on they had taken the time to process our application and then get back to me with a decision. They’re wonderful and we can’t thank them enough!”
But as Shane explained the fundraising wasn’t over. “We had to find the balance of nearly £300 ourselves as we know that the equipment will improve Harry’s wellbeing,” continued Shane. “We’ve been told that the colourful light displays, and patterns that the packs can produce, can sometimes help to regulate children during times when they feel overwhelmed.”
Natalie and Shane decided to set up a Just Giving Page to raise the money needed to secure the equipment and they were amazed when 24 hours later they had smashed their target.
“I asked my boss if I could send a link to my works WhatsApp group and he agreed,” explained Natalie, a former pupil at West Exe Community College. “Shane did the same and my sister, who lives in London, spread the message on her Instagram feed.
“We also have close families who’ve supported us but we’ve been genuinely overwhelmed by the response as I didn’t think, at such a difficult time, many people would donate.
“What’s also fantastic is that every penny that we raise, over the £300 that we need, will go to supporting other disabled children in this area.”
Mark Bushell, from Caudwell Children, is delighted that the charity could support Harry. As he explained: “Harry should receive his equipment in a couple of weeks and It’s fantastic knowing that the charity is having such a positive impact on children and young people despite the current health crisis.
“Without Caudwell Children’s funding many parents would be unable to buy this equipment as it doesn’t come cheap.
“Tactile packs can’t be secured through statutory funding so it’s really important that the charity continues to fill this gap in provision.
“Each feature in the pack has been designed to engage children and hopefully it will attract Harry’s attention and enable him and the family to relax together.
“But we couldn’t do it without the support of the public and it’s only through their generous donations that we will be able to continue supporting other children like Harry.”
To find out more about Caudwell Children and the services that they provide, or to make a donation, visit the website here.