The parents of 11-year-old Lewis Graham were at their wits end as he regularly self-harmed and lashed out as a result of his Autism. Things got so bad they considered residential care – until Newlife stepped in to provide a special bed which has turned Lewis and his family’s life around.
Lewis uses a wheelchair to keep him from harm when he goes outside as he finds the world overwhelming and frustrating, but at his home in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, the situation had become critical. His parents Steven and Louise were reluctantly considering residential care as an option for Lewis, not only to keep him safe, but also to protect his seven-year-old brother Liam, who also has Autism.
Lewis’ condition means he doesn’t speak, has no awareness of danger and is very sensitive to noise and bright lights. As well as challenging behaviour he experiences ‘meltdowns’, sometime several times a day. These are caused by sensory overload and can last anything from a few minutes to a few hours. As well as trying to hurt others, Lewis would repeatedly strike his chin with objects so hard he would cut himself and had also begun biting himself.
At night when he woke, Lewis would climb on windowsills, forcefully bang the walls and windows and bounce on his bed, to the extent that he has already broken several of his own and even his parent’s bed.
A number of professionals are involved in helping Lewis, and his occupational therapist advised the family to contact Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children, the UK’s largest charity provider of specialist equipment for children with disabilities and terminal illness to see if they could help.
Recognising the urgency of the situation, Newlife acted quickly to provide the family with a £6,820 SafeSpace – and contacted the family’s local Statutory Services who then agreed to provide fifty percent of the funding needed. This special type of bed has an enclosed mattress and soft but strong sides so it is effectively a room within a room. Not only is it specifically designed to keep a child safe, there is also very little sensory stimulation which helps to keep them calm and promote sleep.
Dad Steven said: “Lewis would hurt himself and others on a regular basis and we needed somewhere he could be safe when he was being violent. The really bad days and weeks would come in patches, sometimes one week out of four, but it could be very unpredictable. If he was going through a bad patch then either Louise or myself would sleep in his room with him in case he woke to ensure his safety as there was no way he could be left alone.
“Although I was dubious when I first heard about the SafeSpace, it has been great. It has really worked – in fact I’m surprised at how well it has worked. Lewis loves it and when we see a tantrum developing, he uses the SafeSpace and he calms down. He has also stopped biting and hitting himself
“We applied for the SafeSpace as we were trying to improve the quality of his life. We were at desperation stage before and knew we had to do something, it scares me to think we were considering a residential school for him, but the SafeSpace worked very quickly and as things stand now we are just looking at schools for complex needs when he moves in September.”
Right now, there are another four children with disabilities and terminal illness in Glasgow City with needs totalling £2,690. If you think you could help, go to the website www.newlifecharity.co.uk/glasgowcity and click on the Donate button. Alternatively contact the Newlife County Liaison Team on 01543 431 444. Newlife guarantees that 100 per cent of the money donated to the Glasgow City fund will help provide specialist equipment for children in the county.
To find out more about Newlife’s work in Glasgow City, go to: www.newlifecharity.co.uk/local and click on the map. For full details of Newlife Foundation’s range of practical support for disabled and terminally ill children and their families, call the Newlife Nurse Helpline – 0800 902 0095 (free from UK landlines and mobiles) – or go to: https://newlifecharity.co.uk.
Pictured: Lewis Graham