My husband, Richard, and I have two daughters, Anna who is 21 and Alice who is 18 and a Cherry Trees veteran!
I was asked to speak about what Cherry Trees means us as a family 6 years ago when Alice was 13. So when I was asked if I could come along this afternoon I was more than happy to do so.
There wasn’t a lot of time to prepare what to say so I thought I could just dig out my previous notes. I was glad I did, because reading them again 6 years on it really emphasised to me how far we have come as a family with the support of the Cherry Trees team and how important their role has been in preparing Alice, and us, for her next big leap into the adult world.
Alice was diagnosed at 13 months old as having global developmental delay but it soon became apparent that this was accompanied by severe learning disabilities which would affect all aspect of her life and ours!
Alice is very sociable and although her vocabulary only extends to about a dozen words she is desperate to communicate and is very able to make herself understood. Her concentration span is very short and she demands a lot of attention which can be quite exhausting. She is known by one relation as ‘the busy person’!
Alice first went to Cherry Trees when she was 10 for after school teatime visits, increasing to day visits and then overnights. The last 3 years we have even had a weeks holiday as a couple, giving us a chance to recharge. The older I get the more recharging is necessary!
Alice is now 18 and although I never really believed it would happen she has grown into a typical teenager! Mum and Dad are absolutely the most embarrassing people you could be seen with and for her, its all about her friends. Alice makes sure she is always within 10 yards of any machine that will play pop music and is obsessed with her iPad! When at Cherry Trees I know she places herself strategically on the sofa next to the CD player! Very reluctant to relinquish her seat and power over the buttons.
Alice is so enthusiastic about her visits to Cherry Trees and as soon as we arrive she is saying goodbye to me and physically pushing me out of the building. She considers it her territory. It is a place where she can socialise with her friends, out of school away from us in the most caring, supportive and safe environment.
It is a huge thing, as a parent, to hand over the care of your child to others, especially when they are so vulnerable and are dependant for all their needs. When Alice is at Cherry Trees we can really relax knowing she is receiving the best possible care.
Just walking into Cherry Trees you pick up the fun vibe and energy created by the warm homely environment and a dedicated team of staff. During one of her stays at Cherry Trees Alice was fortunate enough to be taken for a girlie day out to London, travelling from Guildford on the train – a ride on the London Eye and lunch out. I know that organising and taking someone like Alice on this sort of outing takes true dedication and a lot of patience!
Alice is about to embark on the next stage of her life which will hopefully involve moving on to a residential specialist college. Cherry Trees has played a vital role in preparing Alice and us for this enormous change.
The impact of what Cherry Trees provides for every member of a family where there is a child with a disability is immeasurable both in terms of respite and developing independence for the children and young people they care for. Reflecting now on the last 8 years it is impossible to imagine what we would have done without Cherry Trees and I know that we would not be feeling as well prepared as Alice enters the scary world of adulthood.
Thank you Cherry Trees from all the family!