A woman from Sheffield is fundraising for special sensory equipment which will enable her disabled son to play at home safely.
Zachary Flavell, aged 10, of Shiregreen, was diagnosed with autism as a toddler after a health visitor realised he was unable to give eye contact like others his age.
Since then, his condition has drastically changed as he has developed hyperactivity, ADHD and has severe learning difficulties meaning that despite his age, he is only functioning at the mental age of a two-year-old.
He is also at risk of absence seizures, a form of epilepsy in which symptoms include rolling of the eyes and has to use The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) cards for communication.
His mum Michelle Wilkinson, age 40, says that due to his condition he has a ‘destructive’ nature so can’t play with other children or regular toys, but sensory equipment would mean he could play without harming himself.
She said: “He presents as happy, but he doesn't understand things like facial expressions. He can be a challenging child and for example, if can sometimes hurt himself and others.
“For example, if he tripped and banged his knee he would reenact it four, five, six times, and each time it would get more traumatic and worse. If you look at him you’d think he was a normal 10-year-old, but his bed has to be screwed to the wall as he has a destructive nature.
“We had a sensory assessment last week with the clinical psychologist at CAHMS and the outcome said he would benefit from soft play equipment, padded walls and cushioned flooring.
“A fully refurbished room can cost over £5000, so we thought if we could get some funding towards the equipment for now, we could eventually put money towards the flooring.
“Padded walls could prevent him from hurting himself, they’re such a vital piece but they’re so expensive so we also need help with funding for that.”
Michelle, who is a full-time carer for Zachary, says he benefits from similar equipment during the day, at Mossbrook Primary School, Norton.
She added: “At home it would give him somewhere to play, he doesn’t play with other kids as he just takes their toys, he has no danger awareness. It would give him a break from things.”
The family are currently waiting to see whether they have been successful with an application for home adaptations, which could include a wet room and an adapted bedroom, but this could take up to three years for approval.
However, for now they are hoping to buy the sensory equipment he needs which can be put into a kitted out sensory room at a later date.
“It would take a massive weight off our shoulders,” Michelle added.
“I don’t like taking money off other people it feels so demeaning relying on others, you think its your child and you brought them into the world so you should be able to provide for the things they need.
“It just seems to impossible sometimes, they make things so expensive and you know your child needs it so you have to rely on funding. I don’t like asking for help but the price makes it impossible to get. It would take a lot of the pressure off.”
So far, thanks to fundraising Michelle has been able to buy Zachary his first piece of sensory equipment.