We interviewed Mel*, a mother who attended our online Strengthening Families, Strengthening Communities course run in association with Skylarks this autumn, to find out how the experience helped her. Welcare’s ongoing partnership with Skylarks dates back over the past three years, and this course was made possible through funding from the Richmond Parish Lands Charity.
What brought you to Welcare?
I’d been in touch with Skylarks charity for some time, as I have a son who has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. When I heard about the course with Welcare I thought it could be useful, particularly as I was struggling a bit feeling cut off during lockdown earlier this year.
What problems were you and your children facing?
My son with ASD is non-verbal, and I have two other children at home too. Sometimes it can be a challenge, and with lockdown we were feeling particularly isolated. I wanted new techniques to connect and communicate with my children, and to feel a bit less alone myself.
What did the course involve?
We started with talking about the Building Blocks of Success, and the ‘3 ‘S’s’ – Self Esteem, Self Regulation and Social Competency. These themes ran throughout the course and we talked about how we could encourage and increase these for our children. Debbie helped reinforce to all the parents on the course the good things we were already doing, and what we could do more of. We talked about physical, emotional and spiritual connectedness with ourselves and with our children. We talked about understanding our own cultures and each others’ cultures – British traditions, Hindu traditions etc – and about what elements of our culture are important to us to include in family life.
What was the best thing about the course?
It was great to meet other parents with disabled children, and to be able to share advice with each other. Realising I could share strategies and recommend books to some of the parents made me feel more confident in my own knowledge too – the kind of things you take for granted or forget about in yourself. In the final session we (the parents) all agreed to exchange contact details and stay in touch as a support network – it just makes such a difference to know you’re all in this together.
What were the main outcomes for you?
I definitely came away feeling more confident about myself and my parenting abilities. While lockdown had its advantages, giving a bit of time to be calm and step back from the hectic day-to-day, it definitely was isolating. It was reassuring to be reminded that parenting is challenging for everyone, and to share the good and the bad with others.
“It was a new challenge running the course online in this way,” says Debbie Eldridge, Family Support worker in our SW London centre. Parents and staff have both had to adapt, and with different households having different levels of access to technology – limited internet data for instance – running an online course has not been without a few blips.
“It’s been a learning curve all round, getting to grips with using technology for work we would usually do in person. We did have one group session where we had to think on our feet and a parent was on speaker phone via Whatsapp as IT let her down but we resolved it successfully so she could still participate. Where one platform fails there is an alternative… but all in all I’m impressed with how staff and parents alike adapted.”
Welcare will continue contact with the families who attended this course, offering one-to-one follow up sessions, and any practical support needed such as food vouchers, as part of our Covid-19 support fund.
To find out more about this Strengthening Families, Strengthening Communities program, or other SFSC courses, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.