Evening Express Editorial
Four north-east women have launched a new community support group in a bid to raise awareness of neurodiversity.
Early Intervention Aberdeen, a support group for parents and care providers of young children with suspected neurodiverse or neurodevelopmental conditions, was established last month.
Launched last month by Linda Lumsden from Bridge of Don, alongside Amanda Nicolson, Michelle Blake and Lara Goldie, the group found that there was limited support available for neurodivergent families. Linda, whose son is twice-exceptional and has an autism spectrum condition diagnosis, experienced this first-hand. She discovered that there were many other families in similar situations, where younger children, prior to a formal diagnosis – or within their early years of diagnosis – are currently not receiving the adequate support that they are legally entitled to get access to. This frustration and detrimental impact experienced by many families receiving little or no support became the motivation for setting up the support group for families with children with learning differences. Linda said: “I was able to identify a need for the service the charity is offering due to my experience of being a parent of a neurodiverse child and through meeting other families, friends and adults who have shared similar experiences. “It is all our journeys collectively – children, parents, siblings, grandparents, they are my reason for establishing Early Intervention Aberdeen. “My personal experience of being part of a neurodivergent family only allows me to feel driven to support others on their journeys. “From the first unanswered questions they may have, as to what a diagnosis may mean, to exchanging ideas, offering counselling, legal advice and, most importantly, acceptance. It will be a place to feel understood and accepted by others who share a similar experience. “What I can tell you is that life within a neurodivergent family is ever-changing. It requires you to think on your feet, be inventive and think outside the box when it comes to being a parent. “My son’s diagnosis is about us adapting to his needs rather than expecting him to adapt to us. “Part of his diagnosis, and this can be said for all children, with neurodiverse conditions such as ADHD, autism and PDA is that they are unable to conform to expectations of what society deems as being ‘normal’. “As they are in the minority, I see the charity as being an advocate on their behalf until they find their own voices and can be confident in asking for their needs and accommodations to be met, to ensure their successful inclusion in society.”
Linda is joined by Amanda and the two collaborate with person-centred counsellor and specialist mentor Michelle, and speech and language therapist Lara. Michelle has extensive experience working with neurodiversity and is a mother to sons with ADHD and autism. Early Intervention Aberdeen is now active on social media. Its Facebook page “is full of easy-to-read information and tips for parents and caregivers”. Linda added: “I have experienced first-hand the negative aspects of an individual being diagnosed neurodiverse. But the balance to those difficulties is the strengths, joy, beauty and reasons to celebrate diversity that are so often overlooked. “Our fundamental belief is to promote a culture whereby early intervention support for every young child with a suspected neuro-diverse or neuro-developmental condition, is non-negotiable before the age of five. “All young children should have equal opportunities to grow and develop to become their best selves at the earliest possible opportunity. “We want to raise awareness of the support needs of children who may ‘slip through net’ because of their perceived abilities or simply because they are pre-school age. “We aim to be both a voice and support network for parents and care providers to encourage them to become more confident advocates for their child’s journey into adulthood. “This may support them within their individual situation while guiding them to understand their legal rights,” Linda added. “The team and I understand that families may become overwhelmed with sourcing information and/or appropriate support for their young child, who may present as having social and emotional challenges. We launched this page, as well as our website to help. “We are applying for charitable status and, moving forward, will be planning some fundraising events enabling us to provide a range of supportive resources that is often very limited or unavailable. “For example, S.A.L.T input and/or therapy sessions for children to positively focus on developing the early milestones skills and special interests of the child. “Not only that, but we will also be providing awareness sessions and webinars for parents and carers to enhance their understanding of a wide range of developmental conditions, support systems, legal rights and responsibilities. “The team at Early Intervention Aberdeen are keen to support and promote positive collaboration between families and others who have a mutual interest in the wellbeing of their child – e.g. healthcare, social work and education professionals. “We hope that by introducing a parent-led support group, this will help raise awareness and positively challenge legal changes and equality. “Our main criteria is to provide support to children in their early years who present as having social and emotional challenges and restricted and repetitive behaviours. “We value true autistic experience, and the concept that it is the environment that should be adapted to accommodate the individual and aim to move away from the old paradigm that autistic people should be forced to change.” The group has been collaborating with parents across the globe to gain an insight into how their children are supported in various contexts worldwide. It has also observed the challenges that the children confront as they transition into adulthood. Linda said: “Each of us acknowledges and supports the many other fantastic charities and support groups already in existence and who offer support to families and children with additional support needs. “We will also try to guide you to a more suitable service if we are unable to support your unique circumstances. “At the minute, we are promoting our online activities across the whole of Scotland. Any face-to-face activities will initially be based in Aberdeen city and open to those living in the north-east – once restrictions are lifted.” Visit www.earlyintervention.org.uk for further resources and more information about the forth coming events. Alternatively, email firstname.lastname@example.org