Pauline and Claire live in Dundee with their four-year-old triplets, Bella, Ollie and Olivia. Bella has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and a future risk of scoliosis, restricted neck movement and possible stunted growth. Bella was non-verbal until the age of three, and although words are coming, her functional speech still requires a lot of work. Also, given her medical challenges from birth and Chronic Lung Disease, Bella's neurological development is naturally behind that of her siblings and peers. Claire shares with us here how lockdown has affected their family and how they've gotten through it.

"Thursday 19th March - the day the world went inside. Pauline and I looked at each other and thought, 'How are we going to manage this?' By the next morning, Pauline was at her new desk in our bedroom, beginning to work from home, whilst I entertained the triplets downstairs. We managed the first 11 days almost loving our new life; the kids loved having both mummies at home. We made the most of being together, making memories, day trips, finding new places to explore, mostly nature walks, the kids were learning. Then on 30th March we received that letter from the government, advising that due to Bella's medical history, in particular her lung disease, we were now to shield for 12 weeks. Reality kicked in. We were emotional. We were scared - scared for Bella, scared that one of us got unwell. However, having four-year-old triplets, we soon dusted ourselves down and began our new life. Pauline spread her work over the full week so that we could be a tag team, entertaining the kids and keeping the house running as best we could.

"Lockdown has shown us that you can be very resourceful when you need to. We built climbing frames from pallets, made indoor stair slides, built a multitude of camps, painted fences (and each other). We turned our drive into their new play park and even had an outside (paddling) pool. We created different play areas outside, thought about how the nursery and The Yard used play stations, to give the children choice and fresh air. It worked! The children were having so much fun. Also, being outside, it didn't feel so suffocating and noisy as being cramped under the one roof. We got to know our neighbours better, we clapped, we baked, we had water fights, pillow fights, tears and tantrums, we went for walks around the street, looked at graffiti, picked flowers, gathered stones, sticks and acorns, we turned cardboard boxes into spaceships, pirate ships, we dressed up, we dressed down, we didn't get dressed at all.

"There were tough days, no escape. The kids missed their friends, mums missed their friends. Bella's behaviour changed; all the hard work from nursery was becoming undone, she was becoming more frustrated, her siblings were squabbling more as time went on, Bella's sensory issues were becoming more sensitive, and she started biting and nipping herself and her siblings. When the weather turned, we played more indoors, although not ruling out jumping up and down in muddy puddles, blowing bubbles, spinning around, making play dough models on the kitchen table, foam parties in the bath, discos in the front room, car-aokes in the drive, picnic lunches on a rug, movies in duvets.

"Despite the triplets not having any home learning assigned to them as pre-schoolers, they learned and they taught us a thing or two. They went from wobbling on their balance bikes, to zooming down the street. They learned about colours, numbers, fixing, problem solving, construction. Their imaginations grew. We told them about the virus, we showed them the world on a globe, we showed them our little country in a huge world. We told them about the moon and the stars, and how when we missed our friends, we just needed to look up to the sky, and know that our family and friends are seeing the same stars we are looking at every night before we go to sleep, and that we will all be together again soon.

"We knew there was always a lifeline if we needed support as parents or ideas for play - the various play stations was an idea from The Yard, as was messy play through bath foam. Even prior to lockdown, we had actually implemented a few of their ideas at home; we watched what the children were drawn to at The Yard during our weekend visits. We had bought a trough table that could be used for sand or water play. We took their interests and brought the troughs to life, whether it was dinosaurs and Teletubbies or monster trucks versus Peppa Pig, we made it come to life, thanks to The Yard and their attitude of letting the children create the play they want to see and do.

"When we first arrived at The Yard with Bella and her siblings, Bella was still very socially introverted. She liked farm animals and would only go to the one play area every time, and play by herself. The staff ensured the farm was always there for Bella, no matter what day we went. They took the time, each of them, to sit with her and watch her, and then with Bella’s permission joined in with her play. Slowly but surely, Bella became more confident coming to The Yard. She now felt safe and secure, and trusted the staff who were so gentle and subtle getting to know Bella, going at her pace. Because of that, Bella is more comfortable exploring all the play stations The Yard creates, each week with a slightly different theme than the last. No two days are the same, and to be able to emulate The Yard in our own home was a life saver for us.

"Having triplets, with one having additional support needs, we usually travel as a pack. It often takes two parents, as they are still quite young, so when we do go to The Yard (or any play area with the kids) we usually stick together. If one of the children takes an interest in another kid or family, we oversee this and it can be quite overwhelming for the single mum/dad with only one or maybe two kids. However, at The Yard, due to the layout and the huge space both indoors and outdoors, the trio have more choice to play with their individual interests and form their own little friendships. Recently, we became friends with a mum and her five-year-old son, who has autism and is deaf, and her nine-year-old daughter is very playful with our other daughter, Olivia. Bella joins in with whoever is having the most laughs, and thanks to Marta, wherever the messy play is placed.

"Our friendship with this family was becoming stronger just before lockdown, and so it was good to have the other mum to talk to, who could understand the impact of lockdown on families like ours, who rely on The Yard for a bit of normality outside our own home. I would wholeheartedly agree that Bella sees The Yard as her extended family, her second home, and we all feel that we can be ourselves among such caring people. We further developed our friendship with this mum during lockdown, and that included having more grown-up conversation, being honest about how our days are going, bouncing ideas off one another, and generally supporting each other through this difficult time."

Our CEO Celine adds, “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. We’ve been busy creating online sessions, showcasing everything from play ideas, music and movement, and well being sessions. 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 extra support at this time.”

Learn more about the online video resources we have developed to support disabled children, young people and their families.

No one wants their child to be lonely. We are working to ensure The Yard continues to be here for our families, both now and in the future. To support us to do this, please consider making a gift today. Thank you.