Parents of children with additional needs share their experience of accessing our befriending service.

‘Some of the most comforting words in the universe are ‘me too’. That moment when you find out that your struggle is also someone else’s struggle, that you’re not alone, and that others have been down the same road.’ (Anon)

This is a premise on which our befriending service is based. An occasional telephone call, email or text doesn’t seem much but as the stories below illustrate, the impact is very significant.

Jack’s grandma attended a Care for the Family parenting course where she heard about our Additional Needs Befriending Service. She told Jack’s mum and dad about it.

This is how Jack’s mum described their family situation:

Jack’s disability is hidden and not well understood, but his needs are high and his behaviour highly variable and unpredictable. We all live with his rage, anxiety, mania and control – alongside his remarkable energy, brilliance and beauty. He is awesome and wonderful but my goodness, it makes for a life as challenging as it is intense!

Our Additional Needs Coordinator matched Jack’s mum with one of our trained volunteer befrienders who had a child with similar story. The two mums texted, emailed and chatted on the phone occasionally for a couple of years and this is what Jack’s mum said about her experience: 

Sharing difficulties puts things in perspective, and it certainly helped me get through a difficult time. Having someone to offload to that is not connected to the issue is a great relief – it’s a pressure valve release.

Amara was just six years old when her mum enquired about Care for the Family’s Additional Needs Befriending Service. Amara has a long list of very complex needs. She sees a physiotherapist, an occupational therapist, and a speech and language therapist, and attends a special school. She is under the care of two specialist paediatric consultants and a neurologist.

Amara’s mum wrote:

I feel as if I’m mentally and emotionally catching up with myself after being full-on with Amara since her birth. But my main concern is the future. How do we future-proof our house, or do we move? Can we afford it? Will her condition get worse, will it affect her organs? Will she die? When we die how will she cope, who will look after her?

We were able to match her to one of our befrienders who had cared for and lost a daughter with complex and life-limiting conditions. When the befriending relationship came to an end, this is how Amara’s mum described the support she had received:

It was wonderful to be heard and listened to. Not feeling judged was important for my confidence too. My befriender filled an empty space in my life as I don’t have my parents or any female relatives to talk to. Being reassured by someone who has walked a similar path has given me confidence in my own abilities, which in turn builds resilience.

Meg was at a family event when she came across a Care for the Family stand. She had a lovely chat with a member of staff who, on hearing that Meg had two sons with additional needs, encouraged her to get in touch with our befriending service. Meg was just coming out of a very messy divorce following years of mental and emotional abuse. Both her sons had autistic spectrum conditions and other related issues. One in particular had become aggressive towards her, was damaging the home and refusing to attend school. Meg was at her wits’ end and desperate for help.

She was introduced to one of our befriending team, also a mother to two sons with autism. An occasional chat on the phone and many emails later, life began to look a little less bleak.

When asked how having a befriender had helped her, Meg said:

Having understanding and validation from my befriender has enabled me to share some of my struggles and know I’m not alone, or inferior, but actually strong with good sense. What I do and my care choices for my son have been validated and understood because my befriender has personal experience herself. Being affirmed and not belittled has been invaluable. Also, having encouragement to continue breaking things down and being able to sound out to someone my plans for steps forward. This has helped towards improving my self-esteem, building my confidence and helping me progress in life choices including pursuing further education.

Find out more about our Additional Needs Befriending service and how to access it.

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