Coronavirus: information and updates

Benji's got a friend in you

When Benji needed a friend… you were there

The pandemic has disrupted all our daily routines. It was especially hard for 11-year-old Benji, who has autism. But you’ve been supporting him and his family throughout. Benji has spent lockdown mastering new skills and making new friends – thanks to you.

Blink and you’ll miss Benji. “He can’t sit still for a minute,” says his dad Jairo. “His brain is always active too. He’s a very clever kid.”

As you can imagine, the prospect of spending months stuck at home during lockdown was extremely daunting for Benji and his family.

But it wasn’t just the challenge of having to stay in one place. Benji’s autism means that it’s really important for him to have stable routines and structures. When these were turned upside down during lockdown, he found it especially tough.

Struggling for support

“At the start of lockdown,” says Jairo, “Benji was like, ‘What’s happened with my school? Why am I not doing this thing at this time, like I always do?”

It was all the more confusing and distressing because Benji had recently moved to a new school, where he was happier than ever.

Previously Benji had gone to a mainstream school, but he didn’t get the support he needed. It was a stressful time for the whole family.

That’s when Jairo had first contacted our Navigate service for parents of disabled children. “Your support was an amazing blessing,” he says. But now, during lockdown, the family needed you again…

The ideal person to help

Jairo and his wife Lucy reached out again to our Navigate service, which is funded by your gifts. Immediately they were able to speak to our specialist adviser Felicity.

It was such a relief for Jairo to hear a familiar voice at the end of the line. “It was like an escape valve that needed opening,” he says. “Because Felicity had supported us before, she was already aware of Benji’s needs.”

Like all the Navigate advisers Felicity also has lived experience of disability. She’s visually impaired and her son is too, so she knows all about the barriers faced by people with hidden impairments.

There couldn’t have been a better person to support Benji and his family during lockdown, and it was your gifts that brought everyone together.

You helped fix Benji’s broken sleep

The main challenge for Benji was his bedtime routine. Even before lockdown, he had struggled to go to sleep on his own. But now his anxieties were even greater. The restless nights were taking their toll on him and his parents.

Felicity understood how hard it is for disabled children to get to sleep, but she knew that any change to Benji’s bedtime routine would be upsetting to the whole family.

With your support, Felicity advised Benji’s parents about different adjustments to his bedtime routines. If something didn’t work, they would analyse it together and try something else.

And soon enough, your support was working like a dream.

Two wheels and lots of new friends

Thanks to his different bedtime routine, Benji is sleeping much better. It’s improved his wellbeing and helped him settle into the ‘new normal’.

“Benji is still very active,” says Jairo, “but he’s much less anxious now. Over lockdown he got to know the other kids on our street, and he’s never had friends before.”

He also used the time at home to master riding a bike, boosting his confidence and self-esteem even more.

With his new friends and his new cycling skills, Benji has taken so many positives out of lockdown. And it was you who made this possible. Thank you.

Your support is a lifeline

Felicity, Jairo's Navigate advisor, explains you how enabled the Navigate service to be there for parents, like Jairo, who are facing extreme challenges. And that with the right support, their children have so much to offer - "Just look at Benji. Lockdown could have been a stressful time for him, but he’s actually flourished. Supporting his family is a privilege, and it’s only possible because of you. Thank you.” 

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