Mum Gail tells us about her son Fergus, who has attended Challengers for 15 years, and the impact of this on their family.
I discovered Challengers when Fergus was 4 years old and it has changed our lives…in fact, it is our lives.
As much as I love Fergus, I would never have chosen this life for myself and my family. Don’t get me wrong, through having a disabled child I have made some incredible friends, changed my career, and my other kids and their friends are more aware of disability than I ever was at their age – but this is not quite the life that I expected.
Unless you are a parent of a disabled child, you will never understand what it’s like, and why a place like Challengers means so much to us.
It’s because of what Challengers has given our family over the years that I decided to become a Parent Ambassador and Trustee of this amazing charity. In these volunteer roles I have heard and seen it all. Parents just like me who struggle every day with their children – some who require around the clock care; some who have challenging behaviours like kicking, punching and biting; some who don’t sleep; some who have no sense of danger. I’ve sadly seen many families torn apart and marriages fail due to the immense pressure it puts on their relationships.
Another parent once said to me – “as a parent of a disabled child you are always a moment away from tears” – and she was right…but this is where Challengers comes in and helps to lessen that strain. When Fergus is at Challengers over the weekend or during the school holidays, our family gets the freedom to do “normal” stuff that others take for granted! We can walk the dog together, go shopping, or visit friends for a coffee, all the while knowing that Fergus is having fun in a safe and stimulating environment. It’s so important for us to have that short break together and to not feel guilty about it.
Challengers gives Fergus independence away from me and the opportunity to mix with other children – something which is so, so important for disabled young people – but he also gets the one to one attention that he needs. The wonderful staff know him and make it possible for him to have fun and be included. What more could you want than to know your child is safe and happy?
Attending Challengers has been truly life-changing for him, and as he comes to the end of his journey and enters adulthood, I know his experiences at Challengers will serve him well and be happy memories we will always treasure.