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Joseph is 18. He has autism, a severe learning disability and a rare genetic syndrome called Dias Logan. He has very limited verbal communication and high support needs. He needs help with personal care, eating, dressing, being out and about – lots of things really. He also has no awareness of danger and needs constant supervision.
Joseph is a laid back kind of character with a passion for Disney, being with his family, eating apples, and swings. He’s very good at swings. He started going to Hayward Adventure Playground over ten years ago and still goes every Friday. It’s part of his Short Breaks provision to give us a break from the care he requires and to give him a chance to spend some time with other young people, doing some of the things he likes.
Hayward is a brilliant playground run by a creative, enthusiastic and caring group of people. It has a huge outdoor space with loads of different play structures where young people like Joseph can be free to be whoever they are. When Joseph is there I don’t have to worry at all as I know he’s having a good time. He is with his community and is well-supported.
Hayward has been a constant throughout Joseph’s childhood and now into his early adult years. There is no other service that provides that for us. He loves to swing and ordinary playgrounds are a bit small for him now, or sometimes just don’t feel inclusive enough. At Hayward he is free to use the swings whenever he wants – and they are specially built for his age group.
I came across another Kids service when I joined a parents meeting with the Camden Special Parents Forum, a great network of SEND parents & carers. I was offered a job working with them which was a great opportunity for me to get back into the workplace and use some of the life experiences I had with Joseph.
I have now been leading the forum for ten years and have worked closely with many families and the local authority to provide feedback on the services we use to influence change. It has been a great experience. I have loved hearing from families, challenging local services and being part of the wider Kids network.