New Sheffield group tackles parents’ autism concerns

Emma with her son Aiden
Emma with her son Aiden

Two mothers who both have sons with autism have vowed to help other parents of children with the condition by setting up a new support group.

The group - called Sparkle Sheffield - aims to help parents tackle their fears and concerns through a variety of activities, including monthly discussion meetings and stress relief sessions, as well as a planned yoga course for children.

Launch events are being held on Fargate in the city centre tomorrow (Friday) and Sunday, while a fundraising concert is set to take place next spring.

The group is run by friends Leesh Dusauzay and Emma Chadwick, as well as Emma’s younger sister Laura, and has proved so successful that the pair have been asked to pay regular visits to Sheffield Children’s Hospital’s Ryegate Centre in Broomhill to share their expertise.

Leesh’s nine-year-old son Jayden was diagnosed with autism aged two, while Emma was told her son Aiden, five, had the condition when he was two-and-a-half.

“Having a child with autism is an extremely challenging experience and the only person who really understands what parents go through is another parent,” said Leesh, 43, from Darnall.

“We know that raising a child with challenging behaviour adds enormous pressure on everyday life and families living with disability suffer stress, isolation, poverty and poor health.

“Parents believe they are completely alone and do not know where to turn.”

Meetings are currently held in Darnall, Handsworth and Manor Top, although Leesh and Emma, 23, want to expand across Sheffield.

“People have come from all over the city, they’re crying out for us,” said Leesh.

“The amount of people who need help is overwhelming, to some degree. The group is about reaching parents and helping parents. We’ve had six parents at each meeting at any one time. We try and get someone to look after the children so we can talk to the parents by themselves.”

The city launch runs from 10am to 6pm on both days, while the concert - called Sheffield Rocks for Autism - is happening at Queens Social Club in April.

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