A mum shares how she was able to access therapy for her son and attend a When Dreams Change course for parents.

Growing Hope is a charity with clinics in London and High Wycombe that provide free therapy for children with additional needs and support for parents. This is one mum’s story.

Hello. I am originally from Italy. My son is nine and a half. He has a beautiful sweet face, and he has autism and dyspraxia. The NHS gave us six occupational therapy sessions in the year he was diagnosed. He needed more help, but because of a lack of occupational therapists in the area they could not offer more. Private sessions were way above what we could afford. Almost all children with autism benefit from occupational therapy because it helps them with their activities. It can make a huge difference in their lives. It is very sad that even though everyone appreciates how important occupational therapy is, access is limited.

I got in contact with Growing Hope at the beginning of 2020. During lockdown they regularly offered Zoom calls to check how we were doing. They are there for us and I felt that from day one. They also have this personal touch and genuine interest that may not be possible to professionals who meet hundreds of children every month. They offered hope to me and they offer hope to other families like mine.

When Dreams Change is a course developed by Growing Hope to help parents and carers reflect on their experience of having a child with additional needs. Many parents have been so focused on meeting their child’s needs that they haven’t considered their own needs. Over the course of four sessions, parents are encouraged to consider the emotions they are experiencing, identify where their support network is and explore their own dreams for the future. The aim is to help parents see hope in their own situation and discover their own potential.

We return to the story:

I attended the course When Dreams Change, and I absolutely loved it. Throughout the course we parents were able to express our feelings (believe me, some of them are quite ugly and embarrassing) and to understand that what we are going through is valid and it is OK not to be OK. I am still in touch with the other mums who attended the course with me. It is very helpful because having a special needs child can be a gift, but some days it can be a burden. I believe that if you suppress the ugly feelings then you will never be able to heal. Naomi (Dr Graham) held such a safe space for us to offload our frustrations that I am sure we all started to heal there. Also, her team could provide childcare during the sessions – such an important thing, but rarely available.

I have to say that Growing Hope is a community more than a charity. They listen to you, they acknowledge your emotions, your thoughts, and they help emotionally a lot. You are a human being for them not just a person with a problematic child.

Growing Hope has designed the When Dreams Change course so that it can be easily hosted in church, community, or school settings. They regularly run facilitator training sessions so that anyone can be certified and equipped to run the course themselves. No prior experience or expertise is required, just a heart to see parents of children with additional needs thriving in your local area. There is a fee for the training.

‘It is and continues to be such a privilege to help parents unlock their true potential, not just their kids!’

Find out more about facilitator training for the When Dreams Change course by visiting the website.

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