Christmas – an opportunity to relax with family and friends, a time for visitors and visiting. But for families with a child or children with additional needs, Christmas can be a time for further stress.

What makes Christmas joyous for some can create apprehension and angst for others, especially parents whose children might be misunderstood and whose needs might not be considered.

For Vicky and Martin Gladstone, who live in Edinburgh with their three-and-a-half-year-old son Miles, many typical Christmas kids’ activities are out of bounds.

Miles is currently undergoing assessment for ASD / ADHD and attending Speech and Language Therapy.  Easily overwhelmed in busy, noisy places and with limited speech, the family have often struggled to find somewhere suitable for Miles to play. And when it came to Christmas, parties and Santa’s grottoes were simply out of the question.

Vicky explained, “For us, parties and playdates were sometimes more trouble than they were worth. As a result, Miles has missed out on a few and been excluded from others. Some parents maybe viewed him as too disruptive or unpredictable. Miles struggles with too much noise, crowds and loud music so festive markets, Santa’s grottoes and Christmas parties generally never work and can actually be pretty intimidating for Miles.

"He’s also a selective eater and finds it hard to queue and wait his turn. He can also be more physical than other children. Generally, other children don’t seem to mind but the reaction of other parents can be really hard. Some of them also hold grudges – it’s tough to be on the receiving end, so we’ve often just avoided certain events.”

However, after Miles’ first successful Christmas party at The Yard last year, the family are gearing up for this year’s celebration!   

Vicky added, “The Yard’s Christmas parties are perfect for Miles. He can enjoy the magical experience children deserve at this time of year, including meeting Santa, and we have lovely memories to reflect on when he’s older.

“During the parties, the team cleverly adapt the environment to suit the needs of the children – it feels like a party but with the music toned down a bit, plenty of freedom and lots of quiet areas if that’s your child’s preference on the day. It’s very carefully done.

“They also hold onto that sense of freedom and openness rather than creating a rigid party space. The children can still run in and out of the garden space and do what they want to do rather than fitting into a box of what might be expected at a party. If they want, they could even enjoy observing the party atmosphere from the outside in! Some of the staff wore antlers last year, but they’ll take them off if your child isn’t happy; things like that make a huge difference.  

“Meeting Santa is also now possible and Miles is excited about meeting him again. Last year, Santa came out and introduced himself in the garden, waved and then told them where he was going, inviting them to go and see him if they wanted to. This contrasts with the usual shopping centre format of queuing up to meet Santa in a small, dark space where everything is strange and uncertain.

"Children with autism take longer to adapt to new surroundings but The Yard offers a safe place – he knows the environment and the staff; there’s no expectation, nothing to warm up or adjust to. We’re welcomed, understood and it’s fun, not forgetting the gift from Santa which I’m sure he’s looking forward to!”

With The Yard supporting children from birth to the age of 25, Miles and his parents are at the very start of their journey with endless opportunities ahead, many friends to make and activities to enjoy.

Summing up, Vicky said, "We’re so pleased and relieved that we’ve found The Yard and that really hits home at Christmas time we can enjoy the things we might have missed out on. Since discovering The Yard in 2021, we’ve found a place where Miles can be himself and relax. That’s just the best feeling for him and for us – coming to The Yard is the highlight of Miles’ week.”

If you have a child with Additional Support Needs, you can book your first taster session for the New Year by emailing [email protected]. We can't wait to meet you!

If you would like to support our families this Christmas, you can give a gift through our Christmas appeal. Thank you!