The Yard families have revealed the challenges of having a child with additional support needs during lockdown.

Sharon and her sons Craig (12) and Andrew (10) are regular visitors to The Yard Edinburgh. Craig has autism, dyspraxia and specific language impairment. Before discovering The Yard, Craig struggled to engage with other children, and similarly, they struggled to interact with him. However, Craig now attends the inclusion resource of a mainstream secondary school and The Yard every Thursday evening (10-14s club), where he is thriving.

Sharon said, “All we ever wanted was for Craig to make friends, even one decent friend. He’s always been a happy and enthusiastic boy, but mainstream children have struggled to understand his quirks, despite their best intentions. We often used to go to soft play or parks, and although other children tried to involve him, he often came back to me after a few minutes. He just didn’t feel part of it and that really bothered me as his mum. No one wants their child to be lonely after all.

“Three years later and The Yard has been life-changing for Craig. It’s an environment where he can be himself and completely relax, rather than acting the way others want or expect him to. Everything they do is tailored to the child and, because he feels safe there and not judged, he’s also tried lots of activities he would never consider doing at school or at home - from cooking, going to the supermarket and playing table tennis, to riding a scooter at a scooter park!

“He’s also learning valuable life skills, which will help with his independence as he grows. The Yard has become part of his routine and a safe place for him to be with his peers, so he’s really missing it during lockdown. We can’t wait for it to re-open and continue to be part of his life as he grows up. Ultimately, we hope he’ll stay until he’s 25, and make friends for life.”

Of course, because The Yard also welcomes the wider family, discovering The Yard has also greatly enhanced Sharon’s life. “I’ve met lots of families in the same situation. My advice to other parents is to go as soon as you can, not to leave it as long as we did, as I’ve gained so much comfort and friendship from other families, and of course, the amazing staff.”

Meanwhile, mum-of-six and grandmother Jacqui is also a regular visitor to The Yard. Her youngest, Yraina (17), has Down’s Syndrome and attends the girls club and family sessions. Because of lockdown, she has now prematurely left the school she attends locally, leading to uncertainty for the future.

Jacqui said, “These days are like double lockdown if you have a child with additional needs. She can’t express her feelings as well as other children and I do worry that it could have a deeper impact that may come out later. She should have been doing transition activities at school to prepare for leaving, but she won’t be going back, and she’ll have missed out on a huge chunk of stuff we can’t replicate. 

“For these reasons, we are desperate for The Yard to re-open. It’s a lifeline for us and benefits us all. There’s nowhere else Yraina could enjoy activities like movie nights, pamper nights and cooking. The sessions are structured but it doesn’t look like it; it just all comes together naturally, and the staff are just amazing, so supportive. We’d all be a lot worse off, and isolated, if we didn’t have The Yard. I’ve met so many families who never left the house before finding The Yard or their kid would have kicked off. So many places and activities would just be out of bounds for us, but this is a place we can all relax, it’s an unspoken thing where everyone just ‘gets it’. Not only can Yraina be herself but I can get that vital support I need.”

Our CEO Celine said, “Disabled children and their families often feel lonely, due to their unique circumstances, greater social isolation and higher rates of children being out of school. Now we are all staying at home, we understand how this feels more than ever. We are therefore working hard to continue supporting children and families, and to be here for our families. We’ve been busy creating online sessions showcasing everything from play ideas, music and movement to well-being. Building communities is at the heart of what we do, so we’re always at the end of the phone or email for anyone requiring that little bit of extra support at this time.”

We are also working to ensure The Yard will continue to be here for our families in the future. To support us to do this, please consider making a gift today. Thank you.