28 Jul Martham mum expands her caring support service for parents and families
Ambitious plans for a network of parent-lead support groups across Norfolk are coming to fruition thanks to the passion and determination of a mum from Martham.
Debbie Jansen says she has “found her niche” after setting up her Slice of Advice group in Great Yarmouth in February.
The friendly group is aimed at helping parents with an autistic child to connect with other families and to tap into their vast well of experiences.
The 44-year-old mum of two said she was both saddened and surprised by the success of the group and by the numbers of struggling parents and carers seeking the company and counsel of others in the same position.
And now spurred on by the demand she has shut her cafe in King Street where the first group met, to focus on launching two more branches in Norwich and in her home village of Martham in September.
Mrs Jansen, a cake designer, said her own difficulties around diagnosis and help for her son Ben, now 10, were driving the effort.
She said she and her husband Stephan knew early on that there was something different about their little boy but that the four year battle to be heard was isolating and traumatic.
Eventually Ben was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder (SPD), a form of autism which means he has a heightened response to normal noises and smells which puts more demands on day-to-day life.
Tapping into a well of experiences and often bizarre solutions was a valuable resource at a time when budget pressures were putting a strain on professional help, she said.
“If you take 100 children with the same diagnosis every one of them will be different,” she said. “Parents know their child better than anyone and in the autistic world nothing is a silly suggestion. Someone may offer what may seem the most bizarre solution, but it works.
“By sheer numbers already it has enabled me to expand into three different areas and give me a wider reach of parents. I know from my own experience what a battle it is and how isolated we felt. If I could prevent anyone from feeling like that, that would be my aim. I want every parent to leave the group having learnt something new and having been introduced to other parents that are facing the same issues.”
The groups also worked well for the children helping them to mix in an environment where they didn’t have to try too hard because they were all the same.
“I have been overwhelmed by the response,” she added. “I thought I would try it and I was amazed. Some weeks we had five people and some it was standing room only and people in the corridor. It was jam-packed and I thought ‘there is something not quite right.’ It was sad to see so many people in the room.”
Mrs Jansen is looking at creating a Slice of Life social enterprise, adding more branches and unlocking pockets of funding to help the project grow and pay for treat trips and days out which can be expensive because of the childrens’ special requirements.
“Once the new groups are off the ground who knows where it could go? I have found my niche.”
The support groups are open to any parent or carer of a child with an autistic spectrum disorder, aspergers syndrome or ADHD. No diagnosis needed.
The Yarmouth group meets every Wednesday 10-1pm upstairs at Caesars Fun Palace on the seafront.
From September 8 there will be a group every Tuesday 9.30-11.30 at Trinity Children’s Centre, Martham Primary School.
And starting on September 14 people in Norwich can get together at 1-13 Willowcroft Way, Cringleford, 9.30-11.30am.
Contact Mrs Jansen via 07773 116515 or email@example.com.
This news story was provided by Great Yarmouth Mercury