Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Finding a Haven for Charlotte

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Finding a Haven for Charlotte

Article excerpt

Daisy Chain is the only charity for autistic children in the Tees region. Now its farm in Norton is expanding to provide more support and respite care. Audrey Forbes reports.

A trip to the supermarket can turn into a nightmare for any mother.

Unruly children running between the aisles pulling items off the shelves never fails to raise the stress levels. And disapproving looks from fellow shoppers only worsen the situation.

But for Mandy Winter the silent glances are a sign of ignorance.

Her little girl, Charlotte, is autistic. "It's difficult for us to go anywhere as she can disappear so quickly," she says.

"She wants to run and play and gets so over-excited by her surroundings. She has boundless energy and wants to be on the go all the time."

A trip to the shops raises the already soaring energy levels for the eight-year-old.

"We can't say to her 'we need to go and buy a few things' and walk her round the aisles.

"She'll decide she wants to go in one direction and we can't stop her as she'll lie on the floor.

"It's hard to deal with her as she's heavy, strong and stubborn."

But at Daisy Chain there is an underlying understanding between families.

The mother-of-two discovered the haven at Calf Fallow Farm after a visit through Charlotte's special school, Ash Trees in Billingham.

And the charity opened up a whole new world for Charlotte, as she meets the farm animals and plays outside the barn.

"It's giving her a place where she can go and play in peace without anyone thinking badly of her," says Mandy. "She can just be herself.

"I can relax a little knowing no-one is judging her without knowing what's wrong with her. She's not seen as a naughty child like when I go to the supermarket."

Charlotte has severe autism. Her 33-year-old mother's life and that of brother Simon, 14, revolves around caring for her.

She was diagnosed when she was two after Mandy noticed she had trouble hearing and her speech regressed.

Six years on and she cannot read or write and has a limited vocabulary.

"It's difficult for her to do anything as she struggles to take in information. …

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