A six-year-old from Fife who has Autism which results in him becoming easily frustrated and hurting himself and others – including his mum who has sustained two broken ribs and concussion – is now much safer and calmer through the night. The transformation is due to the emergency loan of a specialist sleeping environment from Newlife the Charity for Disabled Children. However, the family urgently needs permanent equipment of their own.
Lewis Justice from Leven also has ADHD, learning difficulties, is nonverbal and has no awareness of danger. His conditions can trigger aggressive meltdowns where he will hit and kick walls and floors and head bang. He also struggles to sleep, leaving parents Natallie and Muir further worried for his safety through the night as he can roam their home unsupervised.
With Statutory Services unable to help the Justice family and with nowhere left to turn, they contacted Newlife the Charity for Disabled Children – the UK’s largest charity provider of specialist equipment for children with disabilities and terminal illness. The charity was quickly able to provide an emergency loan of the travel version of a specialist bed called a SafeSpace. This is essentially a room within a room, which is designed to have low sensory stimulation and has walls which are soft, strong and flexible, so Lewis can’t hurt himself when he is in there.
Having a safe place to retreat to when the world is too overwhelming has reduced the number and severity of Lewis’s meltdowns and means he has a safe place to sleep at night. However, the loan of the bed is for six months and a SafeSpace of his own would cost £5,657, which is beyond the family budget. Newlife is now trying to raise the funds to give Lewis a permanent safe sleeping environment. If you would like to help Lewis receive a SafeSpace of his own, then go to www.newlifecharity.co.uk/fife and click on the Donate button next to his story. Any funds raised above what is needed for Lewis will help pay for equipment for another child in Fife, as he is one of five children with equipment needs in the county totalling £33,071.
Mum Natallie said: “Lewis is a lovely wee boy, but he likes to jump around and make a lot of noise – which we are aware the neighbours can hear. When he has a meltdown he can hit and kick the walls and floor, throw himself to the ground, head bang and throw things about, which can hurt himself and anyone nearby. He has two sisters, Harley, aged nine, and Kayla-Lee, aged four, and the younger one is quite fragile – I don’t want anything to happen to either of them or Lewis.”
As Lewis will wake during the night, if he isn’t in his SafeSpace he can wander through the flat, waking his sisters who then struggle at school the next day due to lack of sleep. Natallie said: “I try to go to him as soon as I hear him wake, but as I’m so tired from being up with him I worry I won’t always hear him and he will hurt himself. It has been a slow process to get him into the SafeSpace at night, but we are definitely making progress. He doesn’t normally cope well with change, but he is starting to realise what it is for and definitely enjoys being in there!”
“The loan of the SafeSpace has benefitted the whole family. Lewis definitely has fewer meltdowns since we had it – and when he is calmer and less stressed, we are calmer and less stressed. We are all getting more sleep now which means he’s doing better at school as he is more focused. We just need a SafeSpace which is permanent.”
Newlife is currently receiving more Equipment Grant applications than at any time in its 25-year history, which is why public support is needed to help families caring for disabled and terminally ill children in Fife. The website www.newlifecharity.co.uk/fife includes contact details for the Newlife County Liaison Team – tel no 01543 431 444 or email [email protected] – and shows specific ways people can help support children with disability and terminal illness and their families in the county.
Pictured: Lewis Justice