James Horrax, 34, has raised over £7,000 for Grove Cottage in a bid to help the charity that is supporting his son Noah, 2, who recently started attending the Ofsted Regulated Special Needs Nursery at Grove Cottage following a diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder (commonly known as autism).
James, a Communications Consultant, and wife Lara, who works in Mental Health and Dementia Research, first thought that Noah was developing differently to other children when he was around 16 months but it wasn’t until just before Noah’s second birthday that he was officially diagnosed after the couple decided to pay privately after discovering that the NHS waiting list for diagnosis was three years.
Lara said “Noah had a very difficult start in life and contracted pneumonia and sepsis just a few hours after he was born and spent the first week of his life in intensive care at Addenbrookes Hospital. When Noah was a little older and we started to notice differences in him many others put it down to us being over anxious first-time parents, but I knew in my gut that there was something more. Noah rarely made eye contact with us as a baby and would never bring us any toys like other children did. He was a typical ‘difficult baby’ and would cry for hours and just couldn’t be settled.”
In some areas such as logic and problem-solving Noah’s development has surpassed his peers, such as his ability to do puzzles for over 3’s before he turned two. Yet in other areas, such as speech and language, he is behind. Noah is pre-verbal, something that is a great worry to both James and Lara.
The couple, who have lived in Bishop’s Stortford since 2011, were told that the wait list for Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) through the NHS is two years, by which time Noah will be 4, and that if successful he will receive just 5 sessions before being put back onto a waiting list. However, Noah is now due to start receiving this vital therapy through Grove Cottage’s in-house SLT service in September. James said “There is a strong correlation between not speaking by 5 and being non-verbal for life, yet the system does not seem to appreciate the urgency of early diagnosis and intervention. Early intervention is essential for individuals with autism; without it, society risks writing off autistic people who have the potential to do phenomenal things.”
James added “It has been our experience to-date that public services are not geared up for children with learning disabilities. As such, the charity sector makes up most of the support for families like ourselves. We first heard of Grove Cottage’s Nursery from another parent at a SPACE support group. Since Noah joined he has been receiving the 1-2-1 support that he requires. Noah previously attended a mainstream nursey and although the staff were lovely they did not have the training or enough staff to fully support Noah’s needs. Unfortunately, as is often the case for children like Noah, he was rarely included in group activities and did not progress.”
“From the first time I saw Noah interacting with the staff at Grove Cottage I was amazed. I have rarely seen anyone work with Noah’s strengths to encourage him to interact. For example, Noah loves bouncing up and down and the staff gave him a gym ball to sit and bounce on which helps him to stay focused on the activity. Noah is always happy when he comes home from Grove Cottage and exhausted which is brilliant because not only does he then sleep better, but we know he is getting the stimulation he needs.”
“The staff at Grove Cottage have helped us to access funding available to children with additional needs. Before Grove Cottage we were even considering selling our house to pay for a full time nanny with experience of Learning Disabilities. With Grove Cottage’s support, we do not need to do this.”
It is because of the support that Grove Cottage have provided that James decided to give something back by taking part in the Stansted 10K and raising sponsorship. James said “Fundraising to support Grove Cottage is important to me. It is the least that I can do after all they have done for us. This is a cause that is not only personal and relevant, but one which I can make a difference to. The impact that fundraising has on a small charity like Grove Cottage is enormous. I know all the funds I raise will support other families like ours and those in even more difficult circumstances to us.”
Rosie Wren, Fundraising Manager at Grove Cottage, said “We are so very grateful to James for his fundraising and are delighted that he has chosen to support us in this way. It costs around £400,000 to run Grove Cottage for one year and we could not survive without the support of individuals such as James.”
The Stansted 10K was held on Sunday 9th June 2019 and took participants on a beautiful, yet challenging, 10k route across normally inaccessible private land. Grove Cottage, along with two other charities, are benefitting from the money raised from the event.