THE stresses and strains of parenthood can be almost too much to bear for any parent, but imagine how much harder it could be if your child has a disability.
You may presume that service providers and agencies would be queuing up to help you cope, but the reality can be very different, leaving parents feeling overwhelmed and isolated.
It is then that Mansfield-based charity, A Place To Call Our Own - APTCOO - can step in to provide much-needed emotional support and specialist services.
APTCOO offers an holisitic approach to supporting disabled children and their families through play sessions, family fun sessions and the chance for people going through similar situations just to get together and chat over a cup of coffee.
Carol Burkitt, senior manager, said that Nottinghamshire has no alternative to what APTCOO offers.
“We see over 400 contacts a year in one way or another,” she said.
“Without APTCOO, its courses, responses, its tailored work, its advice, information and referral unit - the APTCOO specialist services - what would they do?
“There’s nothing else like this.
“There are mini groups, like a Down’s Syndrome group at Nottingham City Hospital.
“There are disability specific groups, but there’s not much disability non-specific.
“People can turn up here in tears and there will be someone here with a cup of tea.”
APTCOO’s premises are at Unit 15 on Botany Park, Botany Avenue, but they need upgrading and refurbishing to keep them fit for purpose, with the toilet facilities, kitchen and sensory room all in desperate need of work.
This is on top of the charity’s long-term aim of owning its own premises, which it would use to make a centre that would also house other services that families with disabled children need, including clinical services and access to specialist equipment that they need.
Said Carol: “The voluntary sector is either surviving or thriving at the moment.
“APTCOO is definitely thriving and we would like to be able to work closer with health and social care services to look what we could do together, which definitely would be better than trying to do things on our own.
“Parents have difficulties with trying to get in touch with the right people so we want this to be a one-stop shop for everything that they need.”
APTCOO is hoping that by being the Chad’s Charity of the Year it will further raise the profile of its work and needs, as well as encouraging local residents to do some fundraising for the cause.
Carol said: “I am extremely proud and excited to be working with an excellent team, including our parents and carers, here at APTCOO and receiving this very special award alongside our 20th anniversary.
“I look forward to working with the Chad team over the coming year and showcasing the excellent work that takes place here at APTCOO, raising interest and funds to support the ongoing and new developments that our children with a disability and their extended families enjoy and need so much.
“Please feel free to come along and have a look at the work we do, we are always open to new ideas and new ways of working together in order to provide high quality services and increase our much needed funds.
“Together we can all support the ongoing developmen of APTCOO, ultimately all reaping the benefits from true partnership working.”
APTCOO offers a range of sessions that help the families of disabled children and the children themselves.
Saturday Circles sessions enable families to have fun altogether, there is an ASD group for families who have children on the autism spectrum and a complex needs group for families and carers who look after a child with complex physical or health needs.
A Siblings group gives the brothers and sisters of disabled children the chance to go somewhere to have fun and let off steam, while one-to-one support sessions for parents means that they can speak to people who understand what they are going through in a confidential but relaxed environment.
There are also swimming sessions at Fountaindale School’s hydrotherapy pool and weekly trips to Jango’s Indoor Play Centre.
Said Carol Burkitt, senior manager: “It’s not all about the difficulties, it’s about having some fun as well.”
During APTCOO’s year as Chad Charity, there are a number of targets that it is raising money towards, with the long-term aim being to build its own premises.
The first things on the list include improving the toilets at the centre and upgrading the kitchen so that staff can also prepare more food for service users on site.
The sensory room, which has been out of action for a few weeks after a water bed burst, is in need of redecorating so that it can again be used by the children, while staff also hope to create an IT suite and internet cafe that would give both parents and children the chance to learn IT skills.
The Chad will be following APTCOO’s fundraising campaign throughout the year and anyone who wants to get involved can contact them on 01623 629902 or visit www.aptcoo.co.uk.