Claire is mum to Nate, aged five, who comes to The Yard's Monday 4-9s club, as well as Friday and Saturday family sessions. Nate has been diagnosed with autism and Global Development Delay.

“At The Yard, I know Nate is safe. He has the opportunity to do things independently and has so much choice here. Nate is really good with adult-led activities, so he loves interacting with the playworkers, but even if he doesn’t want to join in with the organised activities I know he is safe just playing outside. He has also made friends who he always looks forward to seeing at the 4-9s session. Before we knew about The Yard, our situation was very different. I have struggled with housing for a while and our house is quite small, but it was sometimes easier to just stay inside with Nate as we couldn’t access other services. We didn’t have anywhere else to go so it was quite isolating. The Yard is a lifeline for us – we now have somewhere to go that is safe and accessible. The school summer holidays are especially difficult for us but the fact that The Yard is open throughout is amazing.

The Yard has helped Nate so much. He is suspected to have ADHD as well as autism so he is always moving around. The Yard gives him the space and freedom to run around outside and use all his energy. It’s so reassuring to know he’s safe whilst doing this as well. At other groups, such as soft play, I would always have to keep an eye on him. But at The Yard, especially on quiet Monday sessions, I have the chance to relax and talk to other parents whilst he plays with the other children and playworkers. There are not many things Nate and I can enjoy together, as it always seems to be a battle. But The Yard provides a place where we can go together, but at the same time, do things separately if needed - he can run around and play whilst I have a cuppa. As I am on my own looking after Nate, The Yard is the only place I can get a break. The staff are great as well – they create amazing imaginary play activities and get the whole group involved, but also give great one-to-one support to the children.

Anything goes here at The Yard – everyone is so understanding. The play sessions reduce my anxiety about Nate’s behaviour, as the staff can help diffuse any situation that arises. Even though I am always at The Yard when Nate is, it’s great to have an extra pair of hands to help look after him and play with him. I love everything about The Yard – even the special events such as the Bonfire Night celebrations and the Christmas party are so helpful because mainstream events are too much for Nate. At The Yard, he still gets to enjoy everything that other children can enjoy, but without the sensory overload.

All the parents are on the same page at The Yard so it is neither intimidating nor judgmental here. I have made friends at the 4-9s club who I would have never met otherwise. We see each other every week at The Yard, which gives us a great chance for a catch-up as our children enjoy themselves. We have also been out for dinner and drinks together outside of The Yard and I can contact them any time I want if I am struggling or need advice. The staff, and especially Ronnie, have signposted me to various housing services when I have had problems and always give me ideas or solutions to try.

This network of people has been a huge support for me - I really feel part of something at The Yard.”