Having Callum with Autism has a massive impact on our lives. We accessed Challengers originally because Callum is highly autistic and somebody recommended that I look into them. I was crying out for help and I was made to feel very welcome at a very early stage. Having done that, William was also invited to spend time at Challengers, to support Callum.
The fact that the boys can attend together is brilliant. Callum needed William at that time to support him, so the fact that William was here, not necessarily playing with him all the time, but Callum knew that he was here. They had their lunch together and Callum knew that his brother was running around as well. And plus, William absolutely loved being here. He loves it here every bit as much as Callum does.
They come home from Challengers exhausted and filthy with paints, flour, anything – I don’t know what they’re doing half the time, it’s all kid focused here. They do cooking, make all sorts of jams and they’ve come home with cakes quite a few times. They are always tired at the end of a day at Challengers, which I am always happy about.
We really have to work our lives around Callum and as a seven year old, William struggles with that because he’s seven and he wants to do things his way all the time, opposed to Callum’s way. But the more we stick to our routines, and the more we have our systems, that better it works, but we have to put Callum’s needs first because they are extreme sometimes.
These needs are never going to be the same and never going to be a constant. What might matter to Callum now, he might leave that little habit behind and a year from now he’s onto something else. And there are things that will upset him, things that will calm him down, so everything is based around him really and what his needs are at the time. The impact is massive but William is very good and he knows that if he can’t support Callum then the impact on me is going to be more as well. So if one is calm, then generally the 3 of us are calm – he knows that.
The play that William will do, even if Callum was supported, he wouldn’t want to. For example football, that’s the main thing that William does, the running, physical, battling, having the ball kicked at you, it’s just not going to work for a child like Callum at all. The needs are much greater, the level of care that he needs, albeit to let him do what he wants to do, is greater and he just wouldn’t be able to do it in an environment that isn’t geared up to it like Challengers is.
The first year without challengers we would have struggled to cope I think. Because there wasn’t really any other respite at all available to us for Callum. William is very easy to place he can go with a friend or whatever, but there was nowhere else for Callum to go. So we latched on very quickly and we were living close by so I think without challengers at that point, we really would have been in a different place. It got us through.