A Wigan mother of three is to launch a lifeline group for parents of children with learning difficulties in an attempt to help bolster support in the borough.
Natalie Williams, 26, is hoping to use her own experiences to help other parents facing the daily struggles of raising a child with autism, ADHD or with other special needs, by launching Wigan SEN Support #StrongerTogether.
The former special needs support worker, her husband Cam and their three children, lost their home after Natalie was forced to give up her job to care for her three-year-old son, Isaac, so she knows more than most the toll dealing with the daily difficulties can cause.
Natalie said that the family’s difficulties would never have happened if she had received the crucial support and advice she is hoping to share with others who attend the monthly sessions.
Running in the second week of every month, the meetings will be open to children with learning difficulties, parents, carers and even young adults with special needs.
“Being a parent of a child with special needs, you can feel so alone,” said Natalie.
“It caused me to feel depressed, to feel so different to everyone else. You can go out to places and be terrified the whole time of a meltdown.
“The thing is it’s not a physical disability: people cannot see autism. A lot of people just assume he’s a naughty child or it’s down to bad parenting.”
Natalie said that she often feels isolated and that her whole life has changed since having Isaac, who suffers from autism and pathological demand avoidance (PDA).
“I would never change a thing about Isaac, I want people to understand him more,” she added. “I think to myself, ‘I’m not a professional’.
“I’m just a mum who knows how it feels. A problem shared is a problem halved.
“I do feel so alone sometimes and I know parents with eating disorders because they feel it’s the only thing they can control. There’s so many parents with depression or eating disorders.
“I want the parents who do have children with special needs to understand, there is no need to feel depressed or isolated.”
The former Deanery High School employee has enlisted the help of autism charity “Embrace” to deliver advice to parents on a range of topics including finance and local facilities.
“I would never have lost my house if I knew then what I knew now,” added Natalie. “We were solely dependent on my husband’s wage, he was working himself to the bone.
“I didn’t know about the disability allowance and carer allowance we were entitled to until after Embrace explained everything to me.
“I don’t want anyone going through what we have been through, I wish someone was there to ‘you can get this’ and ‘you are entitled to this”.
The group has already received support from Wigan care centre, “Hop Skip and Jump” who have offered a playroom for meetings.
The first session will take place at the Parsons Walk centre on next Monday, January 8, from 6pm to 7pm and will be followed by a morning session next Thursday, January 11 from 9.30am until 10.30am.