“When my daughter Anna was diagnosed with autism, I was heartbroken. Life is tough enough without adding extra challenges. She started coming to Aberlour Options in January 2014. When she’s not having her respite break, a normal day for us is chaos.
“Anna demands so much of my attention. She has to be kept on task because she’s like a little butterfly and she’ll just flit off.
“You’re like a hamster in a wheel. It’s constant. You’ve always got to make sure you’re hyper-alert the way she is, because you’ve got to pre determine what she’s going to do next. She can have periods when she is incredibly challenging. She has hit me but you have to realise it’s a form of communication. It’s not because she doesn’t like me, it’s because she’s frustrated.
“She’s not great with sleeping. Some nights she’ll sleep the whole night and other nights she’ll maybe go for 3 or 4 hours. You survive on coffee the next day. When she’s up, she’ll be up and down the stairs, up and down the stairs all night – getting into everything. She’ll appear in the bedroom at 6am looking for juice, or she’ll play music at 5am. She has no awareness of what my needs are or what her brothers’ needs are.
“When Anna goes to Aberlour Options, it just takes the weight off for a little bit of time. It’s the simple things. We have to live in a house that’s like Fort Knox otherwise she just escapes and runs away, so just being able to have a door open is a luxury. We can even go out for a meal which is something we can’t do with Anna, because she couldn’t cope sensory-wise in a restaurant. There’s too many inputs coming at her.
“Anna’s happy at Aberlour Options and she needs that continuity. She needs people who get her and there’s two staff members in particular that get her to a tee. I know by her reactions to them and the photographs I see in her scrap book. The staff at Aberlour Options are worth their weight in gold.
“This is a vital service for families. When you have a child with complex needs, the respite break is the chance to recharge your batteries. You get to a stage when you’re running on empty and that’s no good for any relationships, especially when you have other children. This service is vital for families, there’s no other way to put it.”