Words by Rosie Graham, mother of Blake who attends KIDS Hackney Playground

Our thirteen year old son Blake, who has severe autism and learning disabilities, has been attending the playground for over six years. Familiarity with the playground has made it part of his routine and he really enjoys the time he spends there.  We are one of the 800 families that KIDS Hackney Playground has supported since it opened its doors in 2002 and has been an absolute lifeline to Blake and our family.

The playground is a space where local disabled children and young people can enjoy outdoor and indoor activities with the help of the KIDS staff. It’s reassuring to know that the staff have a relationship with Blake and they have taken the time to learn what he likes and dislikes. They are very supportive and responsive to Blake’s needs and are always available to discuss and chat about his time at the playground and indeed more broadly about his issues, including his recent additional diagnosis of OCD.

People don’t realise what life is like caring for a child with severe autism and learning disabilities

Besides being a vital resource for disabled children, the playground is also integral to the well-being of the family and enables me to spend time with my two other sons which is very important. People don’t realise what life is like caring for a child with severe autism and learning disabilities, you could never leave Blake in an open space such as a normal adventure playground. Therefore  a safe and secure space like KIDS Hackney Playground is fundamental  for children like Blake as there is nowhere else suitable to go. Blake is able to go to KIDS every other Saturday in term time through his small social care package. This means that he can also attend KIDS for some play scheme days in the holidays, using his Short Breaks hours for these.  As you can tell, this means that we are utterly reliant on KIDS, for both term time and holiday provision.

We would have been absolutely lost without KIDS Hackney Playground!