Christmas - Children with complex needsIn this article we want to look briefly at a fantastic growing national initiative that’s making a difference to families with complex needs across the country.

Many families who have an autistic child will know the frustration and upset of not being able to involve them in many aspects of day to day life such as shopping. This can be more evident at Christmas time, leaving parents feeling isolated and sad. A recent blog featured an article in The Daily Mail describing various families’ experience of Christmas decorations with two autistic boys. This same article described attempts to go out and about at Christmas time: “‘The boys hate crackers and partypoppers – they get distressed if there’s a loud bang” . . . . . “Sam loves singing, but only on his own. If other people are singing – such as carol singers – he screams the place down.”

The concept of presents and of shopping for presents is also extremely difficult for these families: “They have no understanding of the joy of receiving presents. I once went to a store’s toy department with Jack to choose a gift and the place was crawling with children having a whale of a time. I lost him for a split-second and when I found him he was looking at washing machines. It broke my heart – I just wanted him to experience the same thrill that other children get when they open a present.”

One mother who was determined to help her autistic child enjoy some of the magic of the Christmas season is Victoria Holdsworth. She had not been able to take her autistic son, Joe, who is 3, to large toy stores for fear of him having a public meltdown due to the busyness of the environment. According to Victoria: “Children with autism often struggle with loud noises, strip lights and interacting with other children.” Victoria began to wonder if it might be possible to arrange a Christmas shopping event especially for children with complex needs, where they are surrounded by other children who are having similar difficulties and parents and carers who understand the situation.

She therefore approached her local Toys R Us to see if they might be able to do something along these lines. The store manager was responsive and Victoria then set up a Facebook group which ultimately led to all 61 Toys R Us stores opening their doors early one Sunday morning to families with children with autism.

BBC’s News magazine features a video interview with Victoria which you can see here.

Victoria Holdsworth summarises the success of the event as giving children with complex needs a “chance to be children – not just children with autism”. This concurs directly with our mission at Freedom Care – “a posse ad esse” – FROM POSSIBILITY TO ACTUALITY! We look forward to making that happen for you and your loved ones in 2015!


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