Colchester mum Victoria Faulks says the emergency loan of a specialist bed for her young son Toby has transformed family life.
Toby, aged three, is on the autistic spectrum; he seeks constant sensory feedback and as a result his behaviours can be challenging. Stress-free nights and uninterrupted sleep were something Victoria and her husband could only dream about – until they got the specialist bed from Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children.
Their son had previously been sleeping in a standard child cot, but Toby likes to climb and has little awareness of danger. As a result he had fallen out of the cot, injuring his face.
Victoria said: “When you have a child who doesn’t have the ability to keep themselves safe, as a parent you are anxious 24 hours a day; it is all pervading. To be able to put Toby to bed in an environment where he is comfortable, happy and safe is wonderful; it has changed our lives.”
The high sided bed is fully padded and designed to withstand the repetitive bumping action that Toby demonstrates. “He gets sensory pleasure out of crashing against the sides,” said Victoria, “but because the bed is specially made for this sort of behaviour he can’t hurt himself.
“Whereas before his anxiety levels would rise at bed time, now he is excited about going to bed. Toby isn’t able to talk but he can communicate his feelings more easily now – he closes the doors on the side of his bed himself if he doesn’t want any attention and he rattles the doors when he wants a cuddle.”
Toby likes the feeling of being enclosed – in fact, says Victoria, his nursery has devised small spaces for him to retreat into when he is stressed. So he feels really snug in the specialist bed – so much so that he likes to play in the space too.
Victoria said: “In the two months since the equipment arrived, Toby has made progress in all aspects of his development. Eye contact has improved and he vocalises more and has picked up on some gross motor skills that have blown us away. We think it is because he is able to sleep more – resting improves his brain function.”
She added: “And Toby’s big brother Adam thinks the new bed is really cool!”
The specialist bed has been provided through Newlife’s Emergency Equipment Loans service which offers a quick response for children with life-threatening or life-limiting illness and those who face injury due to the absence of appropriate equipment. This is one of a range of the charity’s equipment grant and loan services which support thousands of under-19s each year.
Newlife is the UK’s largest charity provider of specialist equipment for children with disabilities and terminal illness.
Victoria said: “Working with Newlife has been a really positive experience. I know that for many parents even the thought of approaching a charity for help is off-putting. Too often we SEN parents have to battle for months to get any kind of service for our children. When it’s for a very expensive piece of equipment, I’m sure we all think there are families worse off than ourselves who need it more. Newlife has been so supportive in every aspect – I have recommended them to several other families.”
The charity has already funded more than £315,000 of equipment for 246 children in Essex – and is currently working with a further 24 families in the county with additional needs totalling £25,072. If you think you can help, either go to www.newlifecharity.co.uk/essex, call the Newlife County Liaison Team on tel no 01543 431 444 or email [email protected] 100 per cent of all money fundraised or donated in Essex will be used to support children in the county.
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: Toby Faulks