Meet the Clarkson family

Parents Vivian and Wayne Clarkson live in Kirkcaldy with their six-year-old son Dylan and ten-year-old daughter Robyn.

Dylan was born at 31 weeks and underwent emergency surgery for a hernia at just six weeks old. He also developed impetigo at three months old, which helped to discover he had a weakened immune system, requiring prophylactic medication until the age of four. 

However, while his immune system began to settle, various developmental aspects came to light. Dylan was diagnosed with Global Developmental Delay at the age of four and is currently on a waiting list for a likely diagnosis of Autism and ADHD.

The challenges they faced

For the Clarkson family, play time can be incredibly challenging, with many mainstream settings out of reach. Similarly, because Dylan is now six, he has outgrown groups that parents can also attend.

Mum Vivian explained, “It’s really hard to get into any groups nowadays. Dylan’s too big for toddler groups but doesn’t have the awareness or social skills to go without us or be left in classes for his age group. Soft play presents significant challenges and playparks tend not to be in enclosed spaces, which means Dylan can’t play freely.”

Safety is of paramount importance for the family, with Dylan lacking awareness and a sense of danger.

“Dylan’s a runner, so every outing requires to be fully planned and Dylan needs to be prepared. We have to consider all eventualities, while giving him opportunities to build his social skills and keep him safe. Although he can take our hand when we’re out, he’d think nothing of running into water, jumping off a high drop or running into the road.

“He struggles with change; we have to prepare him for everything before we go out in detail - for example, 'Car, one shop, two shops, three shops, home'. These aren’t things you’re taught; we are constantly guided by Dylan and what works for him. We need to be clear on the goal, why we’re going out and what we need to achieve, and then work back from that, breaking it all down into steps. As you can imagine, we want to build Dylan’s social skills, and were desperately looking for somewhere Dylan could play and mix with others.”

Discovering The Yard

While working in a previous role, Vivian became familiar with The Yard through our fundraising activities. 

The Yard came back into the family’s mind when Dylan began showing he required additional support, helping them realise this was a facility they might consider in the future.

Visiting for the first time in October 2021, the family now visits every Sunday.

Vivian commented, “Having a child with Dylan’s needs, it’s easy to try and lock yourself away, to avoid judgement when out and about. However, Dylan needs to run and be active. We were once told, 'If he’s bouncing off the walls, take the walls away', which is a great piece of advice. It takes a lot of planning but can help.

“At the Yard, sometimes one of us will play with Robyn or one with Dylan, but whatever we do, we can chat to the staff or other parents, and he can be free and enjoy himself in a safe environment. Everyone mucks in, so we play with other kids and parents too. The biggest thing is that Dylan’s included. In everyday life, people don’t always talk to Dylan because they know he won’t respond, but at The Yard, everyone talks to him and it doesn’t matter if he doesn’t reply on that particular day. It all helps build habits, and makes him and us feel welcome, something we don’t always feel in other settings.”

So what does Dylan enjoy most about The Yard? 

“Dylan and Robyn play outside a lot, playing tig, running, laughing and giggling. Dylan also loves messy play, the trampoline, sandpit and toy cars. He can also try things out at The Yard, and if he enjoys it and it gives him confidence, we can see about buying them for the house. He never used to use the scooter we got him but he uses the one at The Yard so we got the same one. Now he loves it and we can take them out together.”

The family have also made strong connections with the staff and other parents.

“Even though we come because of Dylan, it’s not always about him, so it’s important for us to have the chance to chat to other parents and staff who ‘get it’. All parents need that, someone to relate to. Whether it’s talking through what’s been happening at school or sharing experiences, they’re all there to advise or just listen. Out and about in everyday life, people do try to help and give advice, and although we know this comes from a good place, it can sometimes underplay his needs. At The Yard, everyone just gets it.”

What the future holds

While the family continues to attend The Yard every Sunday, they also recommend the service to other friends and family.

Vivian is also keen to reach out to local families who might have preconceived ideas about The Yard but who would benefit greatly from it. What’s more, because The Yard doesn’t ask for a diagnosis, there is no need to explain your situation or provide a paper trail of your medical history.

She explained, “There’s a perception that disability has to be physical. However, there will be so many families out there whose children have sensory challenges or are on the pathway to a diagnosis who would really benefit from The Yard. My message would be, if your child has additional needs, come along and become part of something. Even if you feel it sometimes, you’re not alone. The Yard staff really understand the struggles families face, struggles that often stop them from enjoying a day out. The Yard might be the place families are looking for that allows their child to be themselves and enjoy play, like any other child.”

If you have a child who needs extra support, whether or not they have a formal diagnosis, we would like to welcome you to The Yard. You can arrange your first free taster session at any of our three sites before becoming a member. We look forward to meeting you!