A Facebook group launched by a North-east mum to help parents of children living with additional support needs tackle loneliness has attracted hundreds of members.
Jo Gowie’s son Jack Petrie, 7, was diagnosed with autism four years ago and ADHD last year.
Although there were a range of autism-friendly groups and activities to attend during the school term, Jo often found activities stopped in the holidays, leaving her stuck in the house.
But the 33-year-old decided to take action in April and set up a closed group on Facebook called Additional Support Needs – Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.
Based at the Beacon Centre in Bucksburn, the group organises a range of activities including a weekly weekend Lego club, monthly coffee sessions and various outings.
The mum-of-two said: “I found there was a few activities going on during the term time, but everything just stopped in the holidays.
“I was stuck in the house by myself and became quite isolated, so decided to set up the group in April and it has stemmed from there.
“The group is a chance for parents or carers to get out of the house and meet other people and their children can be themselves.
“If their child has a meltdown they are with people who have seen it all before.
“I have been with my son in a supermarket before when he’s been having a meltdown and people are staring thinking he is behaving really badly.
“This is a group of people who have been through it and understand.”
She added: “I have found that it has helped with my confidence and has helped me to get out and meet other parents.”
The group has now reached more than 400 members.
Jo, of Bucksburn, said: “The Lego club has become a chance for our children to meet and friendships are starting to blossom.
“People of all ages are welcome to come as well – there is an older man with severe disabilities who comes to the Lego club every week.”
She added: “This group is for all additional support needs including siblings, friends and family.
“Siblings often get forgotten about so I want to include as many people as possible.
“The only thing I ask is that parents stay with their children.
“My youngest son Danny comes as well and it means he can get out of the house and meet other children as well.”
Jo has organised a range of events for the coming weeks over the summer holidays. This week the group headed to Hazlehead Park’s Pets Corner, and there will be a gentle walk through Countesswells Forest on July 23.
There are also plans for an autism-friendly trip to Cineworld in Union Square and an autism-friendly trampoline session at the new Skyline Trampoline Park in Inverurie.
The next coffee session will take place on Sunday, July 30 and is open to children, parents and carers.
Jo also has plans to start a gardening group and has secured an allotment.
She said: “I have applied for funding for gardening equipment and I am hoping to set up a sensory play group – I am just waiting to hear if I have been successful.”
There will be an Additional Support Needs Summer BBQ Family Day at the Beacon Centre on August 26 between 11am and 3pm. It will include face painting, glitter tattoos, a bouncy castle and outdoor games and there will be a quiet area inside for those who need space and quiet time.
Jo added: “My aim is to establish branches of the group across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire so as many people as possible can get support.”