One of the more difficult aspects of having a child with autism is taking our boys to everyday places for a fun day out. This can be anything ranging from the play park, the beach, soft play, pretty much anywhere. It sounds so simple, but it all has to be given careful consideration. What factors out of our control could lead to problems? Any number of random things out and about can upset Olly, and lead to him being inconsolable for quite some time. This of course can draw attention to us, and there are times when you become very aware that people are watching you. This only adds to the stress that you already feel in such a situation. That’s why we were really happy to discover Daisy Chain http://www.daisychainproject.co.uk/
Daisy Chain, as described on their own website “is a unique charity that addresses the needs of children on the autism spectrum and their families. The charity, which was established in 2003, provides a range of services, including support and activity groups for the whole family from the 5.5 acre farm in Norton, Stockton-on-Tees. Autism has a huge impact on the whole family so Daisy Chain takes into account the needs of the child, parents, carers and siblings”.
Louise and I had previously used a rare weekend to ourselves to go and check out Daisy Chain, and we immediately liked what we saw. This was a safe place that we could all go to as family, and not have to feel like we are in a goldfish bowl. We would be among families who understood, and who were going through the same challenges as us. There is so much to do there as well. They have soft play, a sensory room, arts and crafts, a film room, computers and games, and a farm with all sorts of animals. You can go from 11.00am – 3.00pm, and it’s an incredibly reasonable £5.00 for Olly, and only an additional £2.00 for George as a sibling.
We had our first visit last Saturday, and we all enjoyed it very much. We were immediately made to feel welcome as we signed in and chose which activities we wanted to sign up for over the next few hours. We chose soft play for both the boys first, and George wanted to go on the computers after that. Soft play was such a hit however that we ended up spending all of our time there on this occasion.
George has always loved soft play, and he launched himself straight into it as always and had an amazing time. He loves the company of other children so much, and in situations like this he always seems to manage to engage other boys and girls, and get them involved in some sort of game. This was no exception, and I watched him running around with a big smile on his face.
Olly on the other hand usually exhibits many of his autistic tendencies in situations like this. It is not uncommon to find him ignoring the things he should be playing on, and instead running up and down in a line with his head down, or picking up stones and lining them up. However, he really seemed happy to be in the Daisy Chain soft play area, and after taking a few moments to gather his confidence, he went into the ball pit and started to play. I also noticed that he seemed to be watching two of the older children as they threw the balls at each other. He was watching them and waiting for them to throw the balls, and reacting with laughter when they did so. It was so nice to see him enjoying an activity like this with other children.
The soft play sessions are in 30 minute segments, and we stopped for a 15 minute snack break. As first timers, it was clear that we were unaware of a few tricks, such as bringing in a Happy Meal. We didn’t realise that you could bring in your own food and drink, which is very handy to know for next time. We bought some crisps for the boys from the canteen, and then soft play started again. Olly seemed less interested in it this time however, so Louise took him to some of the other rooms while George continued to enjoy soft play. He didn’t enjoy the sensory room however, which was a little surprising, and although he quite enjoyed going upstairs to the toy room, he didn’t want to stay in there, and it became clear that he was getting a little tired and hungry.
So, we gave George a ten minute warning, and our first visit drew to a close. A nice short introduction actually, and it’s good not to do too much too soon really. All in all though, I was really impressed and we will certainly be visiting again. Louise may even have the chance to go during the week actually, and it will make such a difference to be able to go there as she stopped taking Olly to many Toddler Groups, and other outings due to the meltdowns that Olly can have, and the scenes this can cause. Other people’s reactions to Olly’s behaviour can be very hurtful. Places like Daisy Chain are going to make such a difference to us, where we can go and experience normal family activities among like minded people who all understand the challenges that autism presents. I hope this is just the tip of the iceberg for us, and I suspect it is. We’ve met so many amazing people on this unexpected journey so far, and I’m looking forward to meeting many more as time progresses.
So a big thanks to Daisy Chain. What an important discovery for us. We’ll definitely be back!