“My eldest was diagnosed at the age of two, and after that hundreds of emails, phone calls, internet searches and hitting a brick all, I finally got handed a small leaflet about an autism charity called Sparkle Sheffield – a charity who supported families and brought them together for this common reason where we didn’t feel alone and isolated.
I had been a parent beneficiary of this charity for just over a year when I decided to volunteer as a parent to help and support other families who were left alone and stranded after a diagnosis. We worked from our living rooms, soft play centres and sensory rooms to provide parents with meeting facilities and our special children a place to be themselves. Over the last two years I have had the privilege to see Sparkle Sheffield grow from a living room charity with just less than a handful of volunteers, to an amazing office space, with the support of an amazing group of the selfless volunteer management team, offering services and outreach to huge professional organisations right down to individuals.
Through this amazing charity I have learnt so much from professional talks, parents, their children and the wonderful Sparkle team. Sparkle Sheffield has taught and instilled within me that I am not alone, my children and I can and do have access to anything everyone has. Over the last two years they have supported me more then I have supported them. After my childs diagnosis I was left feeling lost, alone and with no identity but to be the best at protecting my children from the neurotypical world. Sparkle Sheffield have supported and guided me through this simply being there and listening and accepting. We have learnt so much from each other, an experience I will never forget.
Through this support and blessed opportunity, I am a more relaxed parent, the anxiety has reduced significantly and I am a more confident individual, maybe even more confident now than before I had children! Through Sparkle Sheffield I have discovered other wonderful organisations that do amazing things for autism families and all other services available to me if and wherever I might get stuck. My children are very happy and settled as well as great stability in our home family life. Now with both in full time school I feel I can now reclaim a part of my life I thought I had to leave behind to be an autism mum, but thank you to Sparkle Sheffield, I have now the confidence to be able to return to work and be me again, I have learnt that I can be an individual and be the best parent to my children.
Words cannot express what it means to be part of Sparkle Sheffield and how this charity has supported me. It is most definitely not goodbye because everyone needs Sparkle in there lives. I will miss our crazy wonderful team who are now my Sparkle family.
“To whom it concerns, Sparkle Sheffield has been involved with my family for about 4 years now. In the beginning it was providing me information on autism as we’d only just had diagnosis and general support coping with her needs. As time went on they grew and we were able to join some activities provided by them for our children so they can engage in fun together and to make friends and play in a supported environment. My girl always relaxes more when she hears it is Sparkle we are going to. She would not be able to see a Father Christmas in his grotto if it wasn’t for the special one Sparkle set up in their offices.
In more recent times they have offered invaluable support in gaining an EHCP in order for my child’s needs to be met in an appropriate school. Sparkle keeps evolving to meet the needs of the parents and has been of huge benefit to us as parents and for my girl. I hope they can continue their good work for many years to come.”
“Sparkle Sheffield have made an enormous difference to our lives.
When our son was diagnosed at age 5 we knew nothing about autism. We were handed a few leaflets and told we were on a waiting list for parent information sessions that were months away. It became apparent that information and support was few and far between. As the weeks went by we felt more and more isolated.
Then we came across Sparkle. The seminars and talks they had arranged with professionals and adults on the spectrum was a breath of fresh air and the information was invaluable. They supplied answers, information and dispelled the many myths surrounding Autism. Sparkle also arranged an Autism Fayre which brought together professional bodies and businesses together under one roof to offer their services. Again, invaluable. They provided us not only with an ear to listen but professional advice and support. Through Sparkle, we had access to a network of families in the same situation. We stopped feeling isolated.
Not only do Sparkle offered the above, they arranged events that cater for the children. Both of my children are autistic, my son, now 7 and my little girl, 4. Because of Sparkle they have been able to experience things that they would not have normally been able to access because of their disability. Sparkle have enabled my children to attend events such as the special Olympics, arrange a holiday club, access adventure playgrounds and play centres, try boxing and self-defence, bowling and spend the day with the emergency services helping them to know who to go to, who can help them and make them feel safe. As a family we cannot even think about accessing any of these things that other families take for granted as part of a normal life. We often feel isolated and it saddens us that our children cannot experience what other children can because their autism presents so many barriers in a world that is not autism friendly and where the environments are so challenging our children cannot even step through the door.
Sparkle rise to the challenge and work so hard to change this. Sparkle provide these with safety and security in mind. With staff who have 1st hand knowledge of Autism and provide so many opportunities for our children to have fun, have friends and be able to access places that otherwise would be inaccessible. They enable our children to experience things that help them grow in confidence and enjoy their childhood. One of the highlights of our year was for our children to go on a barge ride. To go on a canal barge with friends, provide the right safe environment, the right support and with no barriers was amazing for them and for us.
Sparkle also provide a unique support group for Dads which my husband has benefited from. It is difficult for dads as so many support groups are aimed at and attended by mums and female carers. My husband found it really helpful to talk to other Dads and to get support for him from sparkle as well.
When our son was struggling in education they were there for us every step of the way fighting for Sam’s right to an education. Sam was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Sparkle supported us and got one to one professionals in where we could seek advice. Without Sparkle, my son would not have the correct education health care plan. They provided guidance with law, arranged meetings and most importantly, provided an advocate for Sam in these meetings to fight our corner.
My son suffers from severe anxiety and depressions because of his autism. Sparkle have helped to re build his self-esteem through holiday clubs and experiences they arrange. They enabled him to meet an autistic adult who Sam could relate to and see what can be possible. Sam came away from this meeting feeling much better about his autism, less distressed by it and for the first time in his life at aged 7, talked about his future, saying he wanted to fix cars when he was older. This was a massive turn around for us as Sam often portrays himself as useless, worthless and bad or evil in his words. Because of Sparkle, Sam is realising that autism isn’t bad, that he isn’t bad and that he has potential do whatever he wanted when he was older. Because of Sparkle, Sam has met children he now views as friends and who care about him and accept him for who he is.
Sparkle work tirelessly to better the education system for our children and to make our city much more autism aware and autism friendly. Our emergency services, transport services, shopping centres and shops have all benefitted from their guidance which in turn is creating a better environment for my children and others.
Sparkle are always there for us to talk to, for advice and for help. They genuinely care and have created a community for parents of autistic children, their families and are an inspiration to us. We feel we have a place where we belong, that we feel supported on this journey together through both the good and the bad. Sparkle empowers parents to know their children’s rights and to have the courage and confidence to fight for the right support and right education for their children. By putting all this in place, it gives our children a better future. The right support for an autistic child can literally change their lives and change their future for the better. It can help the fulfil their potential and become a happy adult who contributes to society.
Without sparkle Sheffield, our lives and the lives of many autistic children and their families would be so much more difficult, isolated and lacking a future. Autism continues to present many challenges for our family and will do for many years as our children grow and go through the different stages right up to being an adult. There will always be difficulties and challenges to face. There will always be days where we don’t know what to do where everything feels too hard, too impossible and we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. Having Sparkle will help us face these challenges, enable us to keep fighting and to help our children to do the same. Without Sparkle I really don’t know what our family would do. We are only one family but we have met so many others like us that Sparkle have touched. They reach out to anyone who needs them. Because of Sparkle we feel so much more positive about our future and our children’s future.”
Holly Garforth – Events & Promotions Manager – Virgin Money Lounge Sheffield
“Here at the Virgin Money Lounge – Sheffield, we’re delighted to have been able to support and work with Sparkle Charity on many occasions. Their passion for supporting those affected by autism in any way, absolutely shines through in everything they do. You can see the real difference the charity makes to the lives of so many people, and how much they’re appreciated by so many, for the work they do.
The team are a pleasure to work with, backed by the driving force of Liesje. We hope to continue to support their ‘Twinkle’, siblings support group throughout 2018, along with their online awareness filming, activity groups and events. I hope Sparkle is here for many years to come so we are able to work with the charity for as long as we’re both here in Sheffield.”
Dan Casey – Marketing Manager – Rompa
‘I’ve had the pleasure of working with the Sparkle team for over a year now. They are a wonderful group of driven individuals with one common goal – to make the world a better place for their children with special needs.
Sparkle offer valuable information for parents as well as running activity groups throughout the summer.
I’ve been particularly impressed with their drive for change – Sparkle have been pivotal in making places in and around the Sheffield area more autism friendly. They have also helped introduce the concept of sensory rooms to public places to make them more accessible to families.
It is organisations like Sparkle that are vital to the community, they help parents, they provide valuable services and they fight for change.”
Jamie Lodge – Learning and Development Officer – South Yorkshire Transport Executive
“I’d like to say thank you for coming in and giving us the half day Autism Awareness session. It opened some peoples eyes to how Autism can affect everyday things such as using public transport. Having an insight to the struggles parents and children have was invaluable and has prompted people to learn more.
Internally the project and print teams now consider lighting and colours when designing new visuals around the interchanges and bus stops.
Also Stagecoach have now been encouraged to have the same Awareness Training for their conductors to support customers.
This is all positive steps towards Autistic children & people being supported in their everyday lives.
Bethany Todd – Centre Manager – Explore Learning
“I am writing to you from Explore Learning, a maths and English tuition centre for children, to tell you about the amazing work we have completed with Sparkle Sheffield throughout the past couple of years.
The team at Sparkle are always very supportive and ensure that any questions we or our parents have can be answered in a swift and professional manner.
In October, the team from Sparkle came to provide a training session for the staff at our Sheffield centres. The knowledge we gained from this training session was invaluable to our staff and has helped us to deliver high quality support to Autistic children that attend our centre. They are always on hand to support us in anything we may need to continue providing a good service.
I know that this team are always on hand for any of our Autistic members and their families which is invaluable for them. The support they provide in so many ways means families that may not have encountered Autism before are now able to ensure they are equipped with the knowledge they need to do the best for their child and family.”
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