Being a Face 2 Face online befriender

Berit's story

Berit is Mum to two boys. Her youngest, Nicholas, had meningitis as an infant that caused injury to his brain. After his recovery, he was diagnosed with left-sided hemiplegia, a type of cerebral palsy.  At five, Nicholas started having seizures and now has severe epilepsy. He also has severe learning difficulties, behavioural and communication problems.

"The last twelve years have been a rollercoaster of emotions. Nicholas spent a long time in intensive care and no one knew if he was going to survive. When he was transferred from our local hospital to Kings College in London we were told to kiss him goodbye.

"For the first five year's of Nicholas' life his brain injury mostly affected his mobility, co-ordination, attention span and speech. In the early stages after his recovery we were just so happy and relieved that he survived.

"But at some point, reality kicks in. I felt overwhelmed and stressed out with all the medical appointments and visits from therapists. Although some of the therapists and doctors have been very supportive and caring towards, as parents we never had specific support.

Parents need befrienders

"Looking back, I wished I'd known about Face 2 Face and had had contact with a befriender myself. No one really understands the emotions, stress, worrying, uncertainty and practical implications that having a child with special needs can bring unless they've had similar experiences. No one can understand the euphoria you feel when your child has reached the slightest - and to some unremarkable - milestones and the strengths and closeness it can bring to your family, unless they've had similar experiences.

"I came across Face 2 Face through searching online. I was doing a Certificate in Counselling and was interested to see what support there was for parents of disabled children. The fact that they were looking for befrienders immediately caught my eye. I contacted the co-ordinator. 

The training befrienders receive

"As parents from all over England had shown an interest, our training took place near Birmingham over several weekends.

I started the Face 2 Face training when Nicholas was about three. That was the first time I'd had the opportunity to talk to and listen to other parents' experiences. The other parents were of enormous support to me and I have made fantastic friends for life.

"I have been befriending online for over eight years now. I have befriended parents of children with a wide range of impairments. The length of contact varies from parent to parent. I like being an online befriender and hope that I can give other parents some support through my own experiences. If I could, I would probably have chosen to be befriended online all those years ago. You can make contact in your own time and sometimes it might be easier to express yourself in writing.

I honestly feel that talking to and listening to other parents of disabled children can be of invaluable support and that is what Face 2 Face is for."