Parents share their positive experience of respite service

Last year Whitegates opened its doors to its new respite service; offering autistic people with specialist support whilst also providing their families and carers with the chance to take a break from their caring role for short periods.

Now, as Whitegates marks its first anniversary, we've asked one family how they've benefited from the Worksop service. Here they share their experience...

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As a parent of a child/young person with special needs, one of the hardest things you ever have to do in life is to trust another person/people to look after 'your child' the way you would look after them yourself. It takes time to build that trust – but once you have, the service becomes priceless! You can then start to go about your lives doing 'regular/normal' things that other families simply take for granted, like going away on a family holiday or simply going out for Sunday lunch as a family. Things that *A has always struggled with.

As full time foster carers we care for a sibling group of three girls with learning disabilities. On top of this we have to balance the care and needs of *A who requires a high level of support on a daily basis. This can be very hard work at times, and it is so lovely for us to know that *A is happy and well supported by caring, considerate and knowledgeable staff at Whitegates.

*A really enjoys swimming and bouncing on a trampoline. He loves soft play and sitting in the paddling pool when the weather is hot. He enjoys being outside and loves the sunshine and he can do this whilst at Whitegates. During his time at Whitegates *A has the opportunity to visit lots of lovely outdoor spaces, as he really enjoys walking – sometimes these can be at a very brisk pace, as he loves to keep his support workers 'fit'! He loves the garden at Whitegates and he will happily sit on the swing and chill out. He has even eaten his tea out in the garden when the weather has been nice. It is obviously a very nice, calm space for him to relax.

He also has the opportunity to visit local shops and this is teaching him valuable life skills, like waiting and tolerating being in busy community spaces with the general public, which can often be unpredictable and sometimes 'scary'. I consider these to be vital living skills.


Having a child with special needs is hard enough when they are in full time education. When that provision ends, then your whole world is turned upside down! Suddenly they have nothing to do and nowhere to go – all the structure and routine that they were dependent on, (and as parents we relied upon) disappeared overnight.

*A regressed enormously as he wasn't in a situation where he was having demands placed on him on a daily basis. We were always aware that he would do things at school that he definitely would not do at home for us. There was nobody able to push him out of his comfort zone in that way. This is why respite services like Whitegates are so vitally important to our young people.

It is so important that *A has the opportunity to build up relationships with others, who are able to offer him the vital care and support that he needs in order to thrive moving forward. This also gives us the opportunity to do 'normal/regular' things as a family, that we would not be able to do if *A was with us all the time.

Something as simple as going out for a Sunday dinner to celebrate a birthday or Father's Day, for example wouldn't be possible, as *A would not be able to cope in that setting. For years things like this were simply 'avoided' as being too difficult/impossible, but now I feel that we are able to plan for things like this knowing that *A is happy doing something else – something that means far more to him than 'coping' whilst we do something that is important to us.

The ability to finally plan and book holidays is also a huge thing for us. Finding holidays that suited *A was always tricky, and again it was always easier for us not to go – particularly if it involved a foreign flight.

Since *A has been staying at Whitegates our lives have changed enormously, so much for the better you wouldn't believe! We have come a long way as a family in a relatively short time. Thank you to all those at Whitegates from the bottom of my heart.'

*We have removed the names from this story but only to protect the privacy of the family involved. Many thanks to the family who shared their story with us.

Need respite support?

Whitegates offers people with specialist support whilst also providing their families and carers with the chance to take a break from their caring role for a short time - whether that's a few days or a few weeks. To find out more, read on.

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