Amy talks about her experience with her daughter Annabelle and how finding WHISH has been life- changing.

picture for projectStory: Child wearing ear phones holding doll touching a lizard held held by an adult.

The Looking to the Future project organised by Whitby Hidden Impairments Support and Help (WHISH) a parent led support group working with families whose children have hidden impairments . It supports activity sessions and non-judgmental spaces for families and provides a place for parents to come together to share experiences and support their mental health and wellbeing. Amy talks about her experience with her daughter Annabelle and how finding WHISH has been life- changing.

“Annabelle is in a special educational needs provision within her nursery and they started to use the sensory room at WHISH, which is how I became involved.

We were at the point where we wouldn't go out in public, or we wouldn’t go on a family day out because of how Annabelle would react in public situations.

People would stop inviting us to parties because of how Annabelle behaves, or what they perceive as her behaviour. At nursery, she doesn’t have common ground with children, it is like she ghosts them and looks straight through them, but here she knows she can be herself. If a child screams for no reason, it doesn’t matter. She is surrounded by people who have an understanding of those with additional needs, so you never feel alone, only safe.

I was rock climbing with Annabelle this morning, which we would never have done a few months ago, and the other week I was watching her as she was laughing on the bouncy castle with other children. I just stood there in tears. These are things she has never done before and when I look at her and see her happy, it makes me happy.

Annabelle hasn’t hit any physical milestones since birth, and she doesn’t really have a lot of speech. She hasn't had an official diagnosis, but we think ASD [Autism Spectrum Disorder]. We noticed very early on that she was different, but my husband and I buried our heads in the sand. We said it was because she was a Covid baby, and it has taken us really until the last six months to accept that Annabelle is different.

We have also had to accept the way we felt, because we did grieve for everything we thought we were going to have and the way our lives are very different to what we expected it to be before she was born.

Autism is a completely new concept to Annabelle’s grandmother, and it has been very difficult for her when providing childcare while I work.

She has struggled to come to terms with it, but she came to a coffee morning and has been joining in the activities, like the puppet show and she has an understanding now.

I’ve exchanged numbers with some of the parents and we have been talking about schools for next year. It’s nice to be able to talk to parents who have that common ground and who will be looking at schools for additional needs like I will be.

Being part of this community project has just been life-changing for me. If we didn’t have WHISH, we would still be shut up in our house not knowing what to do and not having people around us to help. We are so grateful.”


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