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Volunteering - a parent tutor's experience

Kathy Kelly has volunteered at Focus Surrey since February 2020. As part of #Volunteersweek2022 Kathy is sharing her story.

Kathy is a parent of a child with autism who volunteered to learn about ABA and work alongside her daughter. Since then Kathy has helped with fundraising, event management and sourcing prizes. Kathy became a trustee in 2021 in order to support the club further.

My daughter Patsy has a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and due to her very complex needs is home schooled. I was fortunate to be able to afford an Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) assessment for my daughter who has been on a programme since. My family raised concerned regarding social isolation, which often comes from parenting a disabled child. Patsy and I had tried various clubs in our area/borough but very little met Patsy’s needs. It was my sister who found Focus Surrey for us. I contacted the club and in February 2020 was offered to come along for an assessment. First impressions count…..and believe me I knew we were in good hands the moment we arrived ! The assessment with a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst was thorough and ensured Patsy’s needs could be met. It felt great to be able to speak with a team who actually understood! I was thrilled when Patsy was offered a place and I opted to volunteer. As a volunteer you receive ABA training I was able to work at the club with Patsy, practising my skills as a parent, learning so much along with way.

We returned to the club for term 9 in September 2021 after 18 months away when the club wasn't able to run because of government restrictions and Patsy soon settled back in. I volunteered again as her tutor because the previous term had been cut short because of the first Lockdown. I also supported with sourcing prizes for our vital fundraising raffle, which enabled the club to start up again after 18 months and 3 Lockdowns.

In March 2022, I didn’t volunteer as a parent tutor when we started back again as I wanted Patsy to have time away from myself, building her independence. It’s a great feeling knowing your child’s in safe hands. It gave me an opportunity to speak with other parents, share stories & support one another.

In May 2021 the chairperson Sue Archdall approached me to join as a Trustee. I was thrilled as wanted to be actively involved with this amazing team. We concentrated on fund raising – kicking off with a branded club night in December 2021. We opened the club early for a SEN Disco! This gave the opportunity for teenagers and young adults to enjoy a club environment while appreciating the inclusivity and family environment. It was amazing… parents appreciated the opportunity for their teenage and adult children to attend what was for some their first ever disco, where everyone felt safe and included. We held another disco in Easter 2022 for more dance club fun… with another Disco on the horizon in December…

We enjoyed our stall at Cheam Charter Fair recently, where we helped raise awareness about autism and the club while selling cakes and running a tombola to raise funds for the charity. I love how we all work together - our community. I can’t express how important Focus Surrey is on so many levels and the opportunities it gives to Autistic children and their families. Thank you Focus for all you do.

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