Meet “A”

“A” is 17 and has been attending Challengers’ 555 Service twice a week since September 2023. He is profoundly autistic, non-verbal, and has complex needs which means he requires care and full supervision 24/7. A has been out of education for two years and before meeting Challengers, his mum Jo was at breaking point trying to juggle caring and working as a single parent. Here she shares their story. 

Every school “A” has ever attended has failed us, and being out of school is hugely detrimental to his development and our family’s wellbeing. “A”’s needs are extremely complex – he needs someone to be with him at all times as he has no sense of danger, he gets triggered easily, and at times he can be extremely violent which has led to me being admitted to hospital in the past. Until Challengers came along, no one has ever truly helped us. I can’t begin to explain how much it means to me, to have consistent and reliable help from people who I can only describe as miracle workers. For the first time in my life, while “A” is in the safe care of his amazing Youth workers, I can stop worrying, switch off and relax.  

As a single mother raising “A” by myself, with no family or friends to help, I was sinking…that was until we started at Challengers. It has brought an immense amount of joy into our lives. “A” is haunted by his own obsessions and limitations, and gets easily overstimulated which can lead to violent behaviour, yet the staff at Challengers always manage to make him smile.

I have never seen anyone have such a positive impact on my child before. There have been zero ‘incidents’ at Challengers and thanks to all the team’s hard work, “A” thrives and gets to be the happy boy I’ve known him to be. 

555 Leader Jade has put together an amazing team, and their enthusiasm and positive attitude towards A is what I think he enjoys the most. He reads people well and has never enjoyed being looked after by carers that treat it as just a ‘job’. Everyone who works at Challengers genuinely seems to want to be there and it’s clear that they pour their heart and soul into it. They understand his needs, his mischievous personality, and his likes/dislikes. Messy play is one of his favourites, and he often comes home covered head to toe in glitter and kinetic sand with the biggest smile on his face.  

“A” with mum Jo

We have an external care agency that provides ‘respite’ three times a week, but those sessions always go wrong and end up with “A” being restrained on a regular basis. These days are meant to be fun for him, but he is always agitated and distressed afterwards – the polar opposite to the smiley and happy boy I pick up from Challengers.  

“A” smiling

I have been running on low for many years, and A’s violent episodes have left me shaken physically and mentally. I was on the verge of a breakdown last year and I’m still recovering from the injuries and trauma of being hospitalised, so there’s no exaggeration in me saying that Challengers is the only thing that keeps me sane. What Jade and the team have done for us is nothing short of miraculous and we are both so grateful to have Challengers in our lives.