Grace House supports parents of children with physical and mental special needs by providing short breaks, respite care, counseling and a range of fun activities for children and parents.
For families with children who may have severe autism or suffer from conditions such as cerebral palsy, this can be a very stressful and isolating experience, leaving caregivers little time to focus on their own well-being.
Grace House decided to host a role reversal day with the caregivers to give them a day of rest where they would be provided with time for themselves and a whole range of pampering experiences.
As well as relaxing, parents and carers could enjoy pampering treatments including nail polish and accessories, Moroccan scalp massage, hot oil hand massage, gong bath and yoga.
Tracy Cruddas’ 15-year-old daughter, Katie, has cerebral palsy and was the first child to use the weekend respite service when the facility opened.
Tracy, 49, said: “Katie is really enjoying her time at Grace House as it gives her the opportunity to socialize with other children. We have no support from family or friends so this is an important service that I rely on.
“Caring for a disabled child can be very isolating. It’s nice to be spoiled because I don’t usually get the opportunity. When you are at home, you feel guilty about doing something for yourself.
“I’m going to get a massage, take a gong bath, and get my nails done.”
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She was joined by daughter Amy, who highlighted the role that entire families often play in caring for a child with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
Amy, 20, said: “I was a young carer to Katie. It’s nice that I was invited, because people think that only parents are caring, but also siblings.
“It’s also nice to see my mum getting spoiled for the day.”
For many parents, the day also offered the opportunity to exchange ideas and empathize with families in similar situations.
Deborah Halliday, 43, travels from South Shields to the center where she can access support for her autistic son, who is also nonverbal.
She said: “It’s nice to come along and be pampered, but it’s also great to connect with other parents who are in the same situation – in many ways that’s the most important thing.
“It can be very tiring for parents, but you just get used to it. I get my nails done and a massage. Normally I just wouldn’t find the time with all the appointments I have to keep.”
Lisa Defty, whose son Luke has Down Syndrome, added: “It’s an opportunity to meet and talk to other parents. It’s fantastic to be pampered throughout the day, but also a bit strange as it’s the first time I’ve had any of these treatments.”
Grace House staff organized the event to allow parents to focus on their own well-being.
Communications officer Anjanna Tivegna said: “I think a lot of parents and carers feel isolated because they are so focused on the child’s needs. Today it is about giving them the opportunity to feel special.”