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“It feels so good to share my opinions and feelings…”

Eifion is 10 and has autism which can impact on the wider family in a big way. Older sister Manon, 12 and mum Heidi share their story of a very loving but complex relationship with Eifion and the support they have received from Swansea Autism Trust (SAM).

It’s difficult to describe what family life is like when a member of your family has a disability and significant needs. To most people, she is a typical 11 year old; happy, confident and intelligent, with a passion for water polo, swimming and netball. What they don’t see is the integral role she plays in supporting her brother and the frequent times his needs have to be prioritised over hers. This can be as simple as what music is played in the car, but when you’ve had to listen to ‘Time Tables Rock’ or ‘The Greatest Showman’ soundtrack for the 50 millionth time this can be a really big deal!

On the very few family holidays that we have tried, they have been meticulously planned to meet her brothers needs first and foremost. If it doesn’t work for him, it consequently doesn’t work for any of us. Family outings and activities are just much more difficult for our family and we aren’t able to take advantage of our local community and family friends and we have over the years become somewhat isolated.

This is where SAM, with the support of BBC Children in Need have become such an important part of our lives. In many ways SAM has been more important for Manon than her brother. Here she finds acceptance; everybody is blind to difference because everybody there is different (and she is different; she has a very different life to her friends at school).

Manon and her brother
Manon and her brother

Nobody here cares if her brother is stimming loudly or is reciting a YouTube clip that he has just watched, so she doesn’t have to care. Nobody cares if she is autistic herself or not, or for that matter how old she is or what she wears. She just is. She is able to be independent and do what she wants because her brother is well supported and she is in a family like environment where she is safe to do so. She has developed an incredibly good friendship with a fabulous autistic boy and his family, the sort of friendship that I just think wouldn’t be possible in the ‘real’ world.

With the support of BBC Children in Need, SAM have created something special for her that is her very own. She was incredibly proud to be asked to be a young ambassador for SAM and this special group of young people are becoming an important part in shaping the groups future. I’ve also been heavily involved in SAM over the years, and currently Acting Chairperson. On a practical level she’s relished the responsibility of helping out at activities and ‘saving the day’ when the advertised film couldn’t be shown at a cinema event – she advised the next best film and managed complimentary popcorn for everyone!

Thanks to your donations, Manon and family are supported by Swansea Autism Movement. SAM run trips and activities for families where a child or young person has autism.
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