Our Family Support Workers for Social Communication Needs project makes a real, positive difference to families. Read one family’s experience…

Southend single mother, Kelly* has five children, the youngest two of which (Lucy* aged one and Nathan* aged 3) have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, but both with very different needs. The family live together in a small, two-bedroom flat and have very little support to help manage the demands of family life.

Kelly shares her bedroom with Lucy and Nathan who both have difficulty with sleep, and as a result, Kelly has found herself feeling severely sleep deprived. Additionally, Kelly has a history of serious health issues which impacts on her ability to leave the flat with the two young children, and relies on her 13-year-old son *Simon to take his brother, *Dylan to school each day.

Kelly has been on the local housing list for nine years in the hope of being allocated a larger home for her and her family to live, but has been unsuccessful with this so far. During the winter of 2018/2019, Kelly found herself feeling exceptionally overwhelmed and whilst dropping Nathan to nursery she reported that she “broke down emotionally”. The nursery staff referred her to the A Better Start Southend Family Support Workers for Social Communication Needs service.

The service provides support and advice in the form of telephone guidance, home visits and accompaniment to appointments, and are able to give this support from a place of personal experience of parenting children with social and communication needs in the local area.

Upon receiving her first home visit, Kelly expressed her appreciation of having someone to talk to. She was able to speak openly with her Family Support Worker about feeling isolated and trapped, due to her inability to easily leave her home, and how she felt unsure about what to do after her children were initially diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Through real, lived experience, Kelly’s Family Support Worker was able to empathise and offer advice to Kelly, as well as signpost to other helpful sources of information and assist with the completion of paperwork associated to meeting Nathan and Lucy‘s needs.

As the sessions came to an end, Kelly said it had ‘been nice to talk to someone that understands how hard it is at times. Having the support when you need it is a great relief that you can call up whenever you need to talk.” Kelly also said she thinks she has “gained more knowledge of how to deal with some situations”. She recognises that she can “actually talk to someone instead of trying to bottle it up.” Kelly said that she would recommend the service “because if you need someone to talk to that isn’t a family member or friend, it is a great service to have someone that doesn’t judge you but supports you.”

* All names changed for anonymity

For more information about Family Support Workers for Social Communication Needs, click here, or contact Helen Smith-Vicary on 07918 223834 / email helenvicary@southend.gov.uk (working hours 8am-5pm Mon, Tue, Thurs, Fri).

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