New beginnings for our family
Our daughter Caroline was diagnosed with autism when she was just 3 years old. It was almost a relief after nearly a year of wondering, and we thought, well, now we know. We can now tell people that this is why she won’t sit at a tea party, this is why she won’t join in.
Caroline’s autism means that the way she processes the world around her is different from most other people. If she feels anxious or distressed, she might become aggressive, and giving her space is very important. As Caroline is mostly non-verbal, she isn’t able to communicate how she feels.
We were very fortunate to find a local special needs school where Caroline could learn from the age of 3 to 18. When Caroline turned 17, we started to look for the next step in her life.
We visited about seven different special needs establishments, and none of them seemed able to cope with Caroline’s needs. When we visited National Star, we just went, wow. It looked amazing and we came across so many incredible people there.
Shortly after, Caroline had her trial overnight stay, and we were terrified, thinking, gosh, what’s going to happen? But we picked her up the next day and this happy girl walked forward. She smiled all the way home. I think this was the first time that we thought, she’s ready to move on.
Caroline’s behaviour can escalate if she unexpectedly has to wait or there is hesitation in an activity. She is also very sensitive to other people’s stress, and she doesn’t cope well with new people or environments. National Star staff are fantastic at finding strategies to help her learn to cope.
National Star uses social stories to help Caroline deal with change – teaching her that it is okay to feel sad about moving on and excited about the next stage.
Staying positive with Caroline is key, and exercise is important to her. She loves horse riding, swimming and walking. She’ll come to the garden centre for a cup of tea. Before she came to National Star, she wouldn’t have been able to do these trips as confidently or comfortably.
Caroline now lives at Bradbury Gardens, National Star’s long-term living residence. She’s learned to manage her own condition and her own behaviours. That’s a huge thing for her. She’s learned to better control her anger and understand that we’ve all learned that she needs space on her own, and calmness.
It’s thanks to people like you that Caroline is living as independently as she can be in an environment where she can thrive and where the people who look after her genuinely care for in every sense of the word.
Please donate today so that other young people like Caroline can make the progress they need to live happy, fulfilled lives.
Nick and Sally, Caroline’s parents
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