Mum Alison tells us about her daughter Eleanor, who has attended our Play schemes in Guildford and Farnham since she was four years old.
She shares her story, and explains the difference that Challengers makes to Eleanor and their family.
Nothing can prepare you for having a disabled child, and how it will change things forever.
When we found out that things weren’t going to be as we had hoped for our first child Eleanor, she was just four months old, and our lives were thrown into turmoil. Now Eleanor is nearly nine and she has severe learning disabilities and autism caused by an undiagnosed genetic disorder. This affects every aspect of her life as she needs one-to-one support for everything she does, and there are many things she cannot do at all. We discovered Challengers when Eleanor was four and it quickly became a lifeline for the whole family – but most importantly, for Eleanor herself.
She is non-verbal and can’t tell us in words how she feels, yet we know how much she loves Challengers by her obvious excitement when she arrives.
The minute the door opens she charges through without hesitation, and goes on to have the best day she could possibly have in a safe but fun environment. She comes home tired and dishevelled – exactly how it should be when she has been playing all day!
The staff that we have met at Challengers over the last few years are some of the most special people you could imagine. They are dedicated, hard-working and care deeply about what they do. As parents we feel entirely confident that Eleanor will be safe and well looked after – which, as we know, is not an easy thing to do. This is so important for families, as it means you can let go a little bit and get a chance to breathe and relax, something which is really difficult to do when you are caring for a disabled child.
As a family, we are happy when Eleanor is happy, which we know she is at Challengers.
When she is off having fun there, it also gives us the chance to do things we can’t do easily when she is with us – even popping out for a coffee or going to the shops is often fraught with difficulty. It also allows us to focus on Eleanor’s younger sister, which is hugely important to us all.
The past couple of years have been tough for everyone. The pandemic has hit charities hard, and Challengers needs support now, more than ever, so it can continue to support children like Eleanor who would miss out on so much without it.
So many disabled children will never get invited to parties or play dates, and they can’t just drop into the leisure centre with friends, or go to a local mainstream activity club. Challengers is often all they have – and it’s impossible to stress too much what a vital part of their lives it becomes.