Awaiting a diagnosis: Femi’s story

Our Family Support Workers have personal experience of parenting children with social and communication needs in Southend and can provide a wide range of support to other families struggling to navigate life with a child with additional needs.

Femi lives in Milton ward, Southend with his parents Abena and Hakim, and older brother Kofi. Femi is non-verbal, and his family have been working with a Paediatrician at a Child Development Centre, in order to receive an assessment for Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Abena and Hakim often find tough it to understand Femi’s sensory needs, and sometimes feel overwhelmed. Feeling isolated, with little understanding of how-to best support Femi, the family realised they needed support from people who had experienced the same things they were. They decided to contact the A Better Start Southend’s Family Support Workers for Social Communication Needs.

English is an additional language for Femi’s family, and so Abena sometimes finds it difficult to take him out in the community as she doesn’t feel confident with her communication skills. Upon meeting the family, the Family Support Workers felt the best immediate action would be to help Abena and Hakim build a support network, and to suggest strategies to help Femi with his sensory needs.

Every child loves toys, and the Family Support Worker researched in depth to find toys that would fit Femi’s needs, in line with the family’s budget. Hakim reported that Femi was enjoying his playtimes much more, and that they were beginning to understand his needs better.

Next, the Family Support Worker signposted the family to Little Heroes, the friendly local drop-in service for families of children with Autism or awaiting diagnosis. Hakim attended the session with Femi and enjoyed it immensely. Femi got to play in the new sensory and soft play area, while Hakim spoke to local parents with children with Autism about local schooling and other provisions.

Before the Family Support Workers started working with the family, Abena’s mental health had really declined, and she felt depressed. Understanding the difficulty this unique situation can present, the Family Support Worker offered a listening ear, and planned for her to attend a private session at Little Heroes with the family to support her in taking such a big step.

When the Family Support Worker first arrived, Abena and Hakim differed on their preference for education, with Hakim favouring the idea of Femi receiving additional support in school, while Abena was only considering mainstream placement. The Family Support Worker worked with the family to identify specialist provisions in the community and discussed the possibility of Femi attending a SEN school. Abena, for the first time, began to understand that Femi may need additional support; a real breakthrough for the family.

Hakim, Abena, Femi and Kofi are still receiving support from the Family Support Workers and a very valuable relationship has formed. The family have spoken of the benefits of receiving the support, with Hakim saying: “it is nice to speak to someone who has been through it before, who has shared that experience.”

Hakim continues to attend the Little Heroes hub with Femi and has begun to build a valuable support system with other local families like theirs. The family have also established helpful links with other local charities and services, which means the family will continue to receive consistent, specialist support for Femi.

Abena continues to engage with the process positively and works through any challenges she faces with the Family Support Worker. The continued work with their Family Support Worker will give her the confidence she needs to begin venturing out into her community with Femi.

If you or someone you know are in a similar situation to Femi’s family and would benefit from a Family Support Worker, visit our website and get in touch here.