This Autism Acceptance Week we're marking the week and our Family Support team's 10 year anniversary with our Au-Some 10 for 10 Virtual Challenge and Appeal. The event is raising funds to enable the team to provide their much needed services to more families desperately in need of help. 

We spoke to Amanda, whose family reached out for help from the Aspens' Family Support team for support when their daughter, Keely, was struggling very badly with her mental health and they were feeling at their "wits end".  Amanda says from the moment they met with our team they felt understood for the first time in years and that a "huge weight had been lifted" from their shoulders: 

"We are very lucky to have had Aspens as part of our lives for the past six plus years. I reached out to Aspens after receiving an autism diagnosis for our daughter, Keely, who was 12 years old at the time.   We had not been successful in getting any help from our local CAMHS service so were forced to go down the private diagnosis route to establish whether our daughter was autistic.  The waiting list for a referral on the NHS back then was up to two years.  Keely had just started at high school and things were going very wrong for her.  We could not afford to wait 2 years for a diagnosis, she needed support and help there and then.

I contacted Aspens as we were really concerned about our daughter's deteriorating behaviour,  she was becoming increasingly aggressive and self-harming at least once a week.  We were at our wits end, we just did not know where to turn.  Life at school was becoming unbearable for Keely, she was refusing to go in, and when she was in it would often result in meltdowns which caused her great embarrassment and distress.  We were getting desperate.

As soon as we contacted Aspens, we were contacted by a senior behaviour support specialist, who met us. I met Penny who heads up the team, and we talked, and it was the first time in years that someone understood what we were going through, she made me feel like I was not alone, at last someone ‘got it’ and wanted to help - more importantly she understood Keely.  I felt a huge weight being lifted from my shoulders. From that moment onwards I felt like there was a light at the end of the tunnel.

The past six years have seen enormous challenges for Keely.  She was no longer able to attend her school due to her extreme anxieties, and her mental health deteriorated. Throughout this Aspens have continued to support our family, and more importantly, Keely.  She had regular sessions on a one to one basis with a behaviour specialist and Aspens introduced a mentor to try to encourage her to leave the house and engage in some social activity.  Throughout the COVID pandemic that support continued via zoom with her specialist support, Lucy.

Keely’s sister, Lauren, struggled with some of the challenging behaviour that followed from Keely’s meltdowns. However, she has learnt a lot about autism, and in fact, went on to work for Aspens as a childrens’ support worker, whilst doing her A Levels.   Some of her new found knowledge being put to good use in working with young children with autism.

Keely will be 19 this year. Her confidence is growing, her willingness to try things and to challenge herself is amazing.  In September last year she returned to full time education for the first time in six years.  Throughout this process Aspens have supported Keely, the college, and us as a family.  They helped to prepare Keely for the challenges that lay in front of her, and they are still there now when things are good, or when things are not so good… This support has been simply amazing.

"This support has been simply see how Keely is blossoming, and growing is something that six years ago we would never have believed." 

We know that we can only take things one day at a time, things can change rapidly and without warning, but to see how Keely is blossoming, and growing is something that six years ago we would never have believed. There will be plenty of challenges ahead for us as a family, and many for Keely.  Her mental health continues to be a problem, but at the moment things are turning a corner, there is definitely a brighter light at the end of the tunnel! 

We as parents have learnt so much over the past ten years, we know what fights are worth fighting and which ones are not, we know that autistic individuals are entitled to exactly the same rights, opportunities, care, support and love as would any neuro-typical individual.  We have learnt to be more understanding and compassionate, and we also know that there are thousands of families out there, just like ours who are not being supported.

Without Aspens, our story would not have had the positive outcomes, of that we are sure. The continued support has simply been amazing and we cannot thank them enough.

I feel that as a mum who has been there, I really want to get out there and help other families like my own. I have decided that the time is right for me to be able take on a part time job, after 24 years as a stay at home mum,  my life is much calmer and easier now (well some of the time!!).  I have been lucky to have been offered a role myself working for Aspens.  I am so happy to be giving back to them, the support that they have so crucially given my family over the past six years, and I cannot wait to start!"

- Amanda Roberts

Help our Family Support Team reach more families like Amanda's by signing up to our Au-Some 10 for 10 Challenge or making a donation. 
Here’s how your donation could help families like Amanda's:
£10.00 – Can help fund a Parent Support Group
£25.00 – Can provide a Sibling Group Place
£40.00 – Can pay for a Parent Workshop
Thank you so much for your support. 

Sign up or donate here