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International Day of Families

Posted 04:36PM on Friday 15 May 2015

Friday 15 May is International Day of Families, a day for raising awareness of issues relating to families. It’s a day to recognise the importance of having a healthy and happy relationship with your relatives.

We know just how important the family circle is, especially for families who have a loved one with a learning disability, acquired brain injury or autistic spectrum condition. Our Family Support Services support the whole family, providing opportunities for children and young people to become more involved in the community and making it possible for parents, brothers and sisters to enjoy fuller lives.

Colm and his family are supported by our Lakeland Family Support Service. Colm lives in County Fermanagh with his mum and dad. He has two older siblings who are both away at college. Colm was diagnosed with a severe learning disability and autism shortly after he was born.

Colm joined the Lakeland Family Support Service in 2006 to help him develop his social skills. Colm’s mum told us: 

“Positive Futures was very good in helping us come to terms with Colm’s diagnosis. Support from staff and other families in similar situations was greatly appreciated. Many people in our extended family circle thought of Colm as ‘different’ but this wasn’t the case in Positive Futures. Colm was accepted for being Colm; he was never treated differently and he fitted in with everyone else.”

The Service provided Colm with the opportunity to take part in community activities with his peers like going swimming, for a walk or for a drive in the car, all of which Colm really enjoys. These activities helped him to socialise, build friendships and also strengthened his tolerance for busy environments.

Colm is a non–verbal communicator. He makes his needs known using a Picture Exchange Schedule or bringing to you, or you to, what he wants. Staff in the Service have worked with other professionals to ensure that those supporting Colm understand the importance of using this method of communication.

As Colm got older, support within a group setting was no longer an option as his behaviour was becoming more challenging. His staff team were able to reassess his needs and provide 1:1 support for him. Unfortunately, Colm’s behaviour became more challenging and by the time he was 14 years old, he needed 2 members of staff to support him.

Staff still provide 4 hours of support to Colm and his family every Saturday and during holiday times, this support increases to 4 days a week.

Colm’s sister greatly benefited from attending a siblings group provided by the Service. This group offers brothers and sisters of children with a learning disability, acquired brain injury and autistic spectrum condition the chance to participate in a range of activities and events to improve their health and wellbeing. Inspired by our work, Colm’s sister has volunteered with the Service, helping other children and young people with similar needs to her brother.

Colm’s dad sums up the family’s thoughts on our work: 

“It’s a brilliant, fantastic service for both Colm and the rest of the family. Young, enthusiastic people came into our lives bringing spontaneity and fun to Colm’s life. Colm really enjoys the support provided by the Service and it gives us a break.”

Colm recently turned 18 and is currently transitioning from our Family Support Service to our Supported Living Service. Both Colm’s family and the staff team are delighted that Positive Futures will be there to support Colm in adulthood. Staff from both Services are working closely to ensure this transition is as smooth as possible for Colm and his family.