How The Yard in Kirkcaldy has helped tackle loneliness during lockdown
A Fife family has revealed the challenges of having a child with additional support needs during lockdown.
Operating from the Argos Centre, Appin Crescent, the charity has been offering creative and adventurous play for disabled children and their families every weekend since 2016.
However, since lockdown, it has remained closed to members in general in line with Government regulations.
Connor has Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) and is currently being assessed for possible Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Prior to discovering The Yard, life was extremely difficult for Lesley and her family.
Lesley explained: “Connor just couldn’t socialise - we were really struggling with his behaviour and simply couldn’t go anywhere.
“We tried parks, soft play centres and so on but Connor just couldn’t cope with it.
“The looks and judgemental comments were just awful. Even simple things like going to the shops became impossible.
“He couldn’t make any friends and it was also really hard for Kyle who started to accept that we couldn’t do things ‘because Connor can’t’.
“It was also really hard for me – I had support but not from anyone who had been in my shoes, so no-one really understood how I felt.”
Feeling ‘things had hit rock bottom’, Lesley approached staff at her sons’ primary school who signposted The Yard.
“I liked the fact that The Yard works with the full range of disability and support needs – it’s so diverse and accepting.
“The fact that it’s family-centred was also a huge appeal for us as the boys can both play and be included.
“I want them to grow up in a world which is accepting of all people, not judgemental. The Yard has really helped them both with that. In fact, Kyle loves going just as much as Connor.
“It’s also been life-changing for me - I can talk openly with other parents who really understand which is so valuable, especially if you’re having a bad day and need to offload – we also swap bits of advice and help put things into perspective.”
The family visits The Yard Fife most Saturdays and, during school holidays, drive to its base in Edinburgh.
Lesley continued, “We absolutely love our time there. There’s a different theme each weekend with a range of activities, but also lots of scope for free play.
“Connor doesn’t generally like getting messy but he’s different at The Yard because he’s comfortable there – he now loves making slime, playing with mud and water, things he would never do outside The Yard.
“He’s made a few friends and loves the staff who are worth their weight in gold – they’re all so understanding of the different children and their needs.
“They can gauge his mood as soon as we walk in and predict how he’ll react, tailoring activities to suit.
“We just love it and can’t now imagine life without it.”
However, due to lockdown, the family, like countless others, have had to adapt.
Lesley added, “It’s been really hard since The Yard shut and both boys have been really unsettled.
“Connor was very anxious at the start of lockdown, obsessed with the news and handwashing – he has definitely regressed.
“The boys always looked forward to going to The Yard but now we don’t have that and the routine has gone, which Connor has really struggled with.
“I decided to get in touch with Helen from The Yard, who knows him best and she’s been amazing, giving us lots of support, ideas and activities to help create a bit of routine which is the thing Connor desperately needs.
“Even introducing a weekly menu for the house has helped with Connor’s need for structure and planning and we’ve had lots of fun baking, making playdough and trying out some new sensory activities.
“She’s even given Connor jobs to do in preparation for The Yard re-opening, trying to get his thinking cap on with ideas for new themed weekends.
“Giving him lists and activities help keep his mind active and helps remind him that this is temporary, that life at The Yard will return! “
Celine Sinclair, chief executive officer, The Yard added, “Disabled children and their families often feel lonely, due to their unique circumstances, greater social isolation and higher rates of children being out of school.
“Now we are all staying at home, we understand how this feels more than ever.
“We are therefore working hard to continue supporting children and families and to be here for our families.
“We’ve been busy creating online sessions showcasing everything from play ideas, music and movement and wellbeing sessions.
“Building communities is at the heart of what we do, so we’re always at the end of the phone, or email, for anyone requiring that little bit extra support at this time.”
The Yard Fife runs drop-in family play sessions every Saturday and Sunday from 10.30am to 4pm. Any family with a disabled child can visit free for their first taster session without booking. Contact The Yard on (0131) 476 4506
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