A Walsall mum who had to keep watch over her five-year-old son so he would be safe at night is finally able to go back to her own bedroom after Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children provided the special equipment her son so desperately needed.
Night-time had turned into a ‘nightmare’ for Alfie Higgins and his family as he has severe learning difficulties, behavioural issues and no awareness of danger which means he can’t be left unsupervised. This presented his family with difficulties as he doesn’t sleep well and wakes frequently.
After outgrowing his cot, Alfie had been sleeping in a bed with a toddler guard, but many single beds have been destroyed due to his rocking and bouncing. He would also get out of bed to wander around the house, so to keep Alfie and the rest of the family safe through the night, mum Emma has spent the last two years sleeping on a camp bed in his room.
Yet despite Alfie being at risk and the family struggling to cope with very little sleep, their local statutory service wouldn’t provide the equipment they urgently needed.
“I was very aware of what could happen when Alfie wakes up,” says Emma. “He pulls things onto himself, bangs his head on the wall and bed and throws things around. I was running in there all the time, so I started to sleep in his room with him – it was the only thing I could do to keep him safe. He can’t speak and although he makes noises I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to hear him.”
The lack of sleep became an everyday strain for the family, which includes dad Stuart, Elliot, aged 12, Kieran, ten, and Alexcia seven. Alfie would wake the whole family so no one was getting much sleep, which was having an impact on his siblings’ education.
“We had heard of Newlife before we applied for a grant for the bed – but we always thought others were more in need of their help than us. Alfie’s school, Oakwood in Walsall Wood, persuaded us that we should really give the charity a call,” said Emma.
Alfie is unsteady on his feet so wheelchair services had provided a wheelchair for him and the family received a grant from statutory services to install a through floor lift and a wet room, but when they applied for a special bed to keep him safe at night, they were told they aren’t available for children with behavioural issues.
“I don’t understand why this is – he is still at risk,” said Emma.
Now, thanks to Newlife providing the £1,300 special bed, life is much improved for the whole family.
As Alfie dislikes any change to his routine the family spent time talking to him about his new bed before it arrived and showing him photographs of the equipment which has high sides with opening doors. The bed platform makes it easy for him to get into and out of independently and has given his mum enough peace of mind that she has been able to stop sleeping in Alfie’s room.
Mum Emma said the new bed had an immediate impact on life for the whole family: “It’s been amazing; there has been no head-banging since we had the equipment and I am even back in my own bed now!”
Newlife has provided equipment for 998 children in the West Midlands, at a cost of more than £1,142,984. Right now, there are a further 72 children with disabilities or a terminal illness in the county who need specialist equipment that will really change their lives.
Earlier this year, Newlife Foundation launched the Newlife West Midlands Fund – www.newlifecharity.co.uk/westmidlands. It is an opportunity for local people to help local disabled children and every penny donated or fundraised in West Midlands is guaranteed to support vulnerable families in the county.
Special disability equipment including wheelchairs, walkers, beds, seating and communication aids can help give children independence, keep them safe, relieve pain and overcome challenges. For instance, you could help a child be discharged from hospital, take their first steps or kick a football with their friends. . . .
The Newlife West Midlands Fund website – www.newlifecharity.co.uk/westmidlands – enables local people to find out who needs help in their county right now and includes contact details for the Newlife County Liaison Team – tel no 01543 431 444 or email email@example.com – and shows specific ways people can help support children with disability and terminal illness and their families.
Pictured: Alfie Higgins