In August 2019, I created SEN-den, having became aware of the many issues facing families affected by autism in Enfield. I had witnessed friends go through the two-year diagnosis process, largely unsupported, and the subsequent turmoil and bewilderment that followed the eventual diagnosis of autism. This represented the end of the diagnostic process, but the start of a life-long journey, not just for the child, but for their whole family.

In October 2019, the government finally acknowledged that the struggle parents are facing across the country to access support for their children is nothing less than “titanic”. “Many parents face a titanic struggle just to try and ensure their child gets access to the right support...Families are often forced to wade through a treacle of bureaucracy, in a system which breeds conflict and despair as parents try to navigate a postcode lottery of provision...Children and parents should not have to struggle in this way – they should be supported…”

In addition to the numerous obstacles parents must overcome before accessing statutory services (stretched local authority budgets, lots of paperwork and forms to fill out, long waiting lists for appointments), they also have to accept the cruel reality that specialist private therapies that could help their children to progress (e.g. speech and language therapy at £80 per hour) are too expensive for most ordinary families to afford.

This means that parents have no choice other than to become superheroes.

Having worked for charities throughout my career, I decided to try and find a way to support families both pre- and post-diagnosis. My community organisation, SEN-den, was born. SEN-den is a not-for-profit community business, based at the Lancaster Centre, on Lancaster Road in Enfield Town. I believe passionately in this cause and I volunteer my time and skills to run the organisation.

We run play, information and support groups (for under 8s and their parents) three times a week. We offer families a friendly, welcoming, safe, non-judgemental space and access to our wider “community of support”. To understand the difference this makes to families, have a look at our testimonials page here

These parents have an unwavering commitment to getting the best for their children, despite the many, seemingly impossible obstacles they face along the way. Spending time with SEN-den mums every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday is truly humbling.

Six months since SEN-den opened its doors, it has become increasingly obvious to me that these parents need further opportunities for self-care. So in addition to regular opportunities for peer-support, SEN-den is trying to find creative ways to enable parents to access counselling, massage and other holistic therapies to support their emotional well-being, as well as the occasional treat – because they truly deserve it.

WOULD YOU LIKE TO SHOW YOUR SUPPORT FOR THESE FAMILIES?

As it’s almost Mother’s Day, we have decided to ask local businesses across Enfield for their help with vouchers for “treats” which SEN-den Mums can enjoy – whether this is a beauty or nail treatment, a haircut, a massage, a nice meal out, coffee and cake – anything to remind them how incredibly special they are, and to demonstrate Enfield’s community spirit by showing our support for them.

If you or your business would like to join SEN-den’s “community of support” by offering vouchers, or making a general donation to our work, then please contact Lubna Reid via Facebook, Linked In, the Love Your Doorstep Enfield community forum or email SEN-den

THANKYOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO READ THIS

To read the full Government Select Committee report, you can find it here: https://www.autism.org.uk/get-involved/media-centre/news/2019-10-23-send-reforms-failing-young-people.aspx