The charity we are focusing on during July and August is Mustard Seed Autism Trust, a local charity that provides professional and practical support to autistic children, their parents and siblings, living within a 10-mile radius of Farnborough.
Despite the restrictions of COVID, their small team of professions and volunteers has over this year managed to support 150 families. This has been all the more important during a period when the anxiety we all feel has exacerbated the stress of families in which children with social communication difficulties rely on routine to make sense of a confusing world.
From a “mustard seed”, i.e. support of children with special needs within their local church, Francis Bland, an occupational therapist, and Sarah Clements, a specialist teacher, “branched out”: their vision of providing a professional service in the community to families living with autism encouraging them to set up the trust in 2011. Since then, they have worked with an increasing number of families: introducing and implementing, through a range of therapies and activities, those strategies and approaches needed to develop social communication skills, address sensory difficulties, and support daily routines, behaviour and self-help skills.
Mustard Seed covers the wide spectrum of autism and is accessible to children between the ages of 3 and 11 years. Any family with a diagnosis of autism can self-refer irrespective of financial status.
Their emphasis is a holistic one which involves being there for the family as a whole: working where appropriate within the home environment or in a professionally equipped venue; running parent courses and workshops; operating an advice line and giving access to a range of free resources on their web site and through social media. If you browse their website mustardseedautism.co.uk you will see just how much they have to offer, eg visual time tables and social stories specifically designed to ease COVID related anxiety, social distancing cards, feelings charts. You will be able to get information about the occupational therapy offered in schools; about their collaborative working with other professionals involved with the families; and about the training they can provide for schools and local organizations. You will notice that they even provide for the needs of siblings by way of a monthly club run at Frimhurst Family Centre where they have their offices.
If you would like to contribute towards Mustard Seed’s growth, please donate through the parish web site. To give some idea of where your money will go to:
£5 could pay for a sensory toolbox. £10 could pay for an emotions book for the lending library. £27 could pay for venue hire for each sibling session. £75 could pay for resources for 6 weeks “Ready Steady Go” sessions which implement the Attention Autism Approach with small groups of children and their parents.