During the first week of April, Guild Care, along with other fellow charities and organisations, celebrated World Autism Awareness Week.
This special week raises awareness for those on the autism spectrum, like some of the children and young people who attend Guild Care’s Ashdown Centre in Worthing.
Here, the charity offers a range of services that provide more than 100 families in the area with much-needed respite from caring for a child or young adult who has a learning disability or additional needs, including Zach and his family.
Zach, nine, was diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) at an early age and has been using the Ashdown service for the past four years, attending every other Saturday and during the school holidays, providing valuable respite to his parents.
His father Simon said: “The Ashdown service gives Zach a few hours to be himself in a relaxed, fun and safe environment. He can just play and we can leave him and we don’t have to worry.
“This service really is invaluable to parents like us. Zach’s mum works on a Saturday so it also gives me a break for a few hours to do stuff around the house, or a sports activity.
“The staff are just so brilliant with him and he’s made good friends with them, as well as some of the other children. He’s a very energetic and physical child, so he really enjoys going to Ashdown and getting involved with activities like swimming, bowling and climbing. I would recommend Ashdown 100 per cent, they are just fantastic.”
The younger children can enjoy a range of structured activities, including creative play, arts and crafts, books and learning toys, dressing up and role play, games and a home corner, whereas the older children can choose all the activities themselves, including at least one outing every month.
Short respite breaks to parents and carers are also available, where recent trips have included bowling at Out of Bounds, Blackberry Farm, the British Wildlife Centre and Tilgate Park.
The Ashdown Centre provides evening, weekend and school holiday services for children and young people with a wide range of needs, such as physical, developmental, educational, sensory, behavioural or psychological, including autistic spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome and ADHD.
Legna, eight, was diagnosed with hyperkinetic conduct disorder with ADHD, generalised anxiety with specific phobias, autism spectrum disorder and suffers from insomnia.
For Legna’s mother, Heidi, she always knows that when Legna is at Ashdown, she is in a safe environment, where she has made some lovely friendships and gets to do lots of fun activities.
Heidi said: “It’s been really difficult to find other services locally that we can use that meet Legna’s needs. So this is a lifeline for us. The staff are amazing and we’ve always been supported as a family by Ashdown. It’s a huge, huge deal that we can come here.
“It’s a really hard being Legna’s parent. It’s a 24-hour job as Legna has insomnia so using Guild Care’s Ashdown service means that I get a much needed break. I know that she is having fun when she is there, so I don’t have to worry about her.”
For more information on Guild Care’s Ashdown Centre, call 01903 327327 or visit www.guildcare.org