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Alex is my first child so to me he was always just ‘Alex’. A bit eccentric, pretty rigid in his thinking and yes, different to most other kids his age, but just my Alex. I remember a woman coming up to me at a playground and smiling and saying ‘oh your son has Aspergers too’ and being really shocked but also curious. I went away and read up on it and decided he definitely didn’t have it…….
Of course as time progressed it became clear Alex did have Aspergers and a diagnosis followed together with the tumult of emotions (everything from profound sorrow to absolute relief) that most parents go through when their parenting journey veers of its imagined course.
At this point someone suggested joining ESCAPE and I remember thinking I couldn’t possibly do that. It was a charity – it was for disabled children. I didn’t feel like I needed charity and in my head I had this fixed image of disabled children being in wheelchairs or with life limiting conditions. It was great it was there but it was very much for ‘other people’.
I think in hindsight this was all part of my mixed emotions around diagnosis and a kind of protective shock. Of course ESCAPE is for those children, very much so, but it is also for the children and their families with all sorts of other conditions – some of which are ‘invisible’ to the average bystander.
My first trip with ESCAPE proved to me just how much I needed them. I remember it so clearly. It was a simple coach trip up the M5 to see the Panto. Nothing major. I was still feeling this weird guilt that I didn’t ‘need’ this when I got on the coach and Alex was absolutely adamant he had to sit in the front seat at the top. This was his plan all along and it HAD to happen. I was swamped with anxiety but before I could blink somebody had given me a knowing smile and moved letting him sit there. And that’s when I felt it – this overwhelming feeling that I was amongst friends. That these people ‘got it’. Nobody would bat an eyelid if my children did anything a bit unusual or Alex decided he could only cope with the Panto from under his seat.
Sitting on that bus I started to cry. Just little tears sneaking out but they were tears of relief. I realised just how much strain and tension I’d been carrying around with me on every outing, every trip. But here, with ESCAPE, I could let it go. We could just ‘be’. We were the majority for once. We had strength in numbers and the rest of the world with its sometimes judgmental, impatient ways could frankly go to hell.
Since then I’ve been on lots of ESCAPE trips. There have been triumphs (Blackpool – some of my favourite memories ever including the group taking over the Sandcastle swimming centre and seeing the amazing staff helping every single child to enjoy themselves and be included), there have been disasters (err Weymouth Sealife Centre on my birthday where Alex decided he hated all Sealife and wanted to leave NOW for the entire day driving me to ask the cafe if they sold wine. They did not….) and moments so funny I can never forget them (being pulled to the bottom of a muddy rafting lake fully clothed somewhere near Swindon, also on my birthday, by an overly excited boy with Downs Syndrome. I was laughing so hard I honestly thought I would drown).
None of this could have happened without the amazing people that make up ESCAPE – it is not ‘just’ charity. Its a feeling, a movement, a very special place that moves wherever its people move.
Thank you to all the people, businesses and organisations that can and do give time and/or money. I can’t tell you how much of a difference you have made to my life and my children’s childhoods.
And if you’re reading this wondering if it’s for you – give it a go. You have so much to gain.
Calling all Knitters, Crocheter’s and Pom Pom Makers
ESCAPE have been given the wonderful opportunity to ‘Yarnbomb’ a Christmas Tree in Bath Place, and at the same time raise a little money as well. (more…)
You will now be fully aware that there are staff changes happening within Escape — our aim is to ensure that you don’t notice them too much!! Staffing will be as follows ;
Sarah Phippen – Team Leader
Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday.
Paula Jenkins – Family Liaison & Support Officer
Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday.
Angela Farrow – Administration Support
Sara Farr – Hub Club Co-Ordinator
The Hub Club is Escape’s monthly family club which is funded by Children in Need. It’s role is about bringing families and their children together to have fun and make friends through a range of activities and crafts. We certainly feel it is very beneficial to our families, but here some of the families that attend tell us what they think of The Hub Club –
“My daughter, Olivia and I (and daddy when he is not working) have been going to Hub Club since it first started in October. We all love to go and enjoy doing things with others we do not always do at home. Olivia finds it a great opportunity to ‘play’ with children and adults (there is a kid in all of us and my daughter is good at seeking it out). We all get involved in games, activities and good quality time together doing and making lots of different things. We have made sock puppets, Christmas decorations and lego scenes. I even made a table decoration for Christmas Day! The club ends with parachute games which everyone gets involved with to use up that final burst of energy and fun.”
Alison, Colin and Olivia
“My kids ask me every Saturday “Is it the Hub Club this week?” – they love it! I think that tells you everything you need to know about the Hub Club! My two are 4 and 6 and as soon as we get to the club they invariably head straight to the Lego table. We have tonnes of the stuff at home, but still, something about being at the club and having different Lego (Minecraft and Star Wars is a huge favourite!) really appeals to them. My daughter loves the various arts and crafts she can get involved in (as do I, better to do these messy activities out the house!) and my son enjoys seeing how many sweets he can get with his £1 pocket money in the tuck shop (it is loads!). An activity all the kids absolutely adore is the parachute games – they love it and run around like maniacs! It’s great to see both Jack and Zuki having such a great time with other children and it means the parents get to sit down and enjoy a cuppa and a biscuit knowing the kids are safe and in a judgement free environment. Thank you Escape!”
Jo, Jim, Jack and Zuki
“The Hub Club is an amazing monthly get together for children and adults. Our son Tyler loves every part of it from building lego to craft making playing games and meeting people. Also not forgetting the tuck shop. It’s an amazing couple hours and if Tyler had his way it would be on longer and every week. As for me it’s nice to see Tyler enjoying himself and having so much choice on what activities he wants to do. Me and Sara also enjoy every part of it. So thank you Escape for this amazing club.”
Pete, Sara and Tyler
The Hub Club is every second Saturday of the month, so check the ‘What’s on’ page for details and come and join in the fun!
We all get inspired by perhaps what we see on television, read about in the papers or maybe even from latest postings on Facebook, but for Steph Faye Grasby it was seeing how much enjoyment that her daughter gets in life, especially when she joins her cousin at an Escape trip.
Steph started getting into running when she was about to get married and then signed up for the Birmingham Half Marathon to run for the Children’s Hospital as a thankyou after her daughter was treated there. Since then, Steph’s trainers have lay waiting for the next moment of inspiration, which has now come about because of Escape.
Steph has been able to see via her nephew and her daughter’s shared experiences what Escape does to support and offer families those special moments together. So this October, Steph will once again be taking on the Birmingham Half Marathon, but this time fundraising and running in aid of Escape. She is currently in full swing with her training plan to get fit and ready for the big day.
Here at Escape you know how crucial funds are in order for the good times and the trips to continue. Taking part in a fundraising event such as running can be both challenging but rewarding, and so if any of you are feeling inspired by Steph’s efforts, then you don’t have to travel as far as the Midlands to do conquer such a feat or even necessarily run a half marathon! Every year Escape enters a team for the local Taunton Fun Run and Half Marathon.
In the meantime, I am sure you will join us in wishing Steph every success at completing a safe and enjoyable run in Birmingham. If you are inspired too, why not join us and be part of the Escape Group entry at the Taunton Fun Run/Half Marathon on Sunday April 3rd 2016. Contact us for an entry form.
2013 was somewhat of a roller coaster year for me. In many ways, some fabulous experiences and memories to treasure; like succeeding in getting myself and Freya to Heathrow Airport and onto a plane (Freya’s first experience) over to Sweden and then onto a small island to meet up with my Husband and friends for one outstanding week.
Freya is a beautiful nine year old with a complex mix of diagnoses; including A.D.H.D, D.C.D (previously Dyspraxia), sensory processing difficulties and speech and language delay. So with this in mind, the trip was somewhat of a challenge, but we both rose to it!
Going back to other periods in the year, the ‘ride’ was not so enjoyable……Freya’s behaviour can be very challenging and she needs a lot of one to one support. To keep up with all that this requires, you need to be in ‘tip top’ condition, both in body and in mind. Most of the time I am fine. I tick along, keeping up with the conveyor belt of daily life, but now and again I struggle with periods of depression and anxiety. That’s when time’s become a bit tough.
One particular occasion last year, I was struggling. I turned up at the Escape office to pay for some trips we were due to go on…….That was it! One room of friendly, understanding faces (Abbey, Cathy & Sara), and it all came out.
They sat me down, with a cup of tea. They listened and talked through possible support, contacting Compass Carers on my behalf, discussing a Carer’s Assessment as well as other things I hadn’t thought about. And, OK, the depression didn’t miraculously lift, but the weight and pressure that I had been feeling, definitely decreased and enabled me to carry on and get some other support in place.
(It all sounds very over dramatic, as I reflect on what I’ve just written, but actually these times, that I’m sure will resonate with others of you, ARE very dramatic, traumatic and tough, when you’re scrabbling away in the midst of them.)
Well, because I realise now that being a part of the Escape ‘family’, isn’t merely what you get from the fabulous trips, events and socials. It is as much about the other stuff…………the person at the end of the phone for advice or support; or the opportunity for a chat and a cuppa; the friendly, supportive faces of other member families/staff, who don’t bat an eyelid when your child is having a melt down; meeting and developing friendships with others who share similar experiences and overall, knowing that you are not alone.
We all love a good reason to reminisce, and what better reason than an anniversary……..
14yrs ago today, I started working for Escape, I say started, what I actually mean is I started as a paid employee, I had been doing the job voluntarily for a good couple of years beforehand.
My biggest challenges during my time with ESCAPE have been our Annual Specials. These have been many and varied, and hold some of my fondest memories, so why not take this opportunity to look back at all we have been up to.
Is the British weather living up to its reputation? Event cancelled? Don’t worry, these amazing events will keep the kiddie winks entertained!