The struggle of managing two children with autism meant mum Nicola found it hard to leave home. Over time her confidence disappeared and the family spent more time indoors, becoming increasingly isolated.

Things changed when volunteer William arrived on the scene. Here, Nicola shares her story:

I couldn’t wait to be a mum. I imagined long family walks, playing in the park and taking my children to see Santa. I pictured myself helping them to learn to count and recognise colours. When I actually became a mum my expectations took a bit of a dive.

After the birth of my first child Zachary, I became anxious and depressed. Leaving the house was too hard, it was far easier to stay home and cut myself off from the outside world. My predictions of mum and baby groups and walks with the pram faded away".

The signs were there

"When Zachary was 18 months old, he wasn’t talking so I Googled and came across autism. The more I read, the more I recognised Zachary. From lining up his toy cars, sitting spinning the wheels for a long time to playing on his own and his reactions to situations.

Doubts still crowded my mind, and I’d question whether I’d not read to him enough, done enough, been a bad parent. Everyone I spoke to told me not to worry and that boys often start speaking later than girls, but deep down I knew he was autistic. When I took him to a playgroup, a mum took me aside and asked if I thought Zachary was autistic. I cried! Not in a bad way, in a good way, like I was being heard, believed, and that my feelings were valid.

When Zachary was two he received his diagnosis. It is young for a diagnosis, but I was comforted to know we were on the right path and that we would get the help we needed.

By this time we had another baby, William. I hoped William wouldn’t have autism so that he might play with Zachary differently, teach him things, look after him as they grew up. But as the months rolled by it became pretty clear he was also autistic".

Autism and it's challenges 

"William received his diagnosis at three. Having two autistic boys has been a challenge. It’s a different path to the one I thought parenthood would take me on, but not a bad path by any means.

Weekends became very hard. My partner is in the restaurant business and works shifts meaning he isn’t around to help with the boys and I’m on my own with them. Without the extra pair of hands, having two boisterous boys with lots of energy is a challenge.

Going out alone with them was becoming an impossible task which meant we stayed at home at weekends, doing nothing and becoming very isolated from the outside world. When I did take them out there would be meltdowns, screaming, kicking when they couldn’t get what they wanted or felt out of their comfort zone. Zachary had one meltdown in the supermarket because I wouldn’t buy him a case of Cider just because he liked the picture of the apple.

My confidence started dropping and I didn’t feel like a good mum. The noise within the house, along with the boredom and isolation affected my mental health and had a knock on effect on the children. I was very different to the person I used to be. After noticing how isolated we had become, my health visitor recommended Home-Start".

The 'other William'

"Home-Start East Lothian was quick to respond after our referral. We were matched with a volunteer who we call ‘the other William’. He visits us every Saturday and we walk to the local park with the boys. The children love this routine and get really excited to see ‘other William’ each week.  ‘Tiny William’ my son, often waits at the window to see him arriving. Their reaction when he arrives is priceless.

The boys have come to trust ‘other William’ and love their time with him. I really appreciate the company and the help. I know that ‘other William’ will be there to keep an eye on one of the boys while I have the other, keeping them from harm when we’re outside. The boys have such different interests so they can be at different ends of the park most of the time. Tiny William likes to jump off everything and Zachary likes to go on the playground equipment in a certain order.

William and I have a lot in common. He’s a very kind hearted and gentle soul who has a lot of compassion and time for the boys. I really enjoy having another adult to chat with. My partner Jamie, has only met William once, but is so happy that I have the support when he can’t be around. We both appreciate it so much".

Getting freedom back

"Having the support of William has made such a difference to me and my family.

I don’t feel isolated anymore and my confidence about leaving the house has returned. The relationship between William and the boys is super sweet, even the more tentative Zachary will reach out and hold William’s hand now.

We no longer dread weekends. Home-Start has enabled me to have more freedom and fun with my lovely boys. The children love this routine and get really excited to see ‘other William’ each week.

Our lives would be so different without the support, it has been lifesaving and I truly hope ‘other William’ will be in the boys lives  for a long time".

Find out more about the things Home-Start can help you with 

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