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‘They make such a difference’: Aberdeenshire mum welcomes £200,000 lottery cash boost for charity that supports her autistic son

Susan Strachan, co-founder services manager, Katie McNutt, charity manager and Lisa Grainger, fundraising officer

An Aberdeenshire mum has welcomed funding awarded to a charity that has supported her family for the past four years.

Dawn Brown’s 12-year-old son, Robert, has autism and she says SensationALL has made “such a difference” to their lives.

The Westhill-based charity has now been awarded £200,000 from the National Lottery to expand its services and help more families like the Browns.

She said: “We found SensationALL in 2014, and accessed our first of many tea and tips sessions in late April.

“Since then, we’ve been involved in the self-regulation programme, Chill-oot, a number of fun days, parties and events, as well as the stay and play informal family sessions.

“They make my son feel like there is somewhere that it’s okay to be himself, whilst giving him loads of techniques and support to help him manage daily issues.”

Help to identify needs

Mrs Brown praised the family events hosted by SensationALL for being somewhere they can all relax and not have to worry about comments from others if Robert does not cope well.

She continued: “Chill-oot has been the groups that have made the biggest difference for my son. It’s helped him so much with his emotional regulation and to identify what sensory needs he has.

“With loads of tips on how to self soothe and cope better with a neurotypical world that often makes no allowance for difference.

“Online Chil-oot was great too. Hearing my son laugh and have things to look forward to during Covid was such a relief.”

Robert Brown, 12, and his family have been supported by SensationALL for the past four years. Supplied by National Lottery.

Support for the whole family

Robert’s mum said she was “delighted” that the funding will help to support more families like her own.

“For me as a parent having the resources at hand when we need them has been incredible plus the support and understanding of staff and the peer support from other parents has lightened many a dark day.

“The support is bespoke – every family has different needs at different times. We’ve accessed support fro school issues, supporting transitions from one school year to the next and also moving from primary to secondary.

“The online support during Covid has been amazing. For a small organisaton to reinvent services quickly and effectively was a great support when nothing was familiar.

“I’d love to see the funding go towards more of the same. Also, towards support training to make school a kinder place for kids who struggle.”

Expanding sessions and services

Thanks to the funding, SensationALL will be able to expand its group sessions and services for children and young people over the next three years.

The sessions give youngsters with support needs, complex conditions and disabilities the chance to take part in in activities that are suited to their sensory and behavioral needs.

Funding officer, Lisa Grainger, said: “Our specialist staff use therapy based methods to improve the attendee’s social skills, communication, emotional awareness and behavioural regulation.

“All of our intervention has positive effects on self-esteem, confidence and reduces the sense of isolation that many young people with support needs experience.”

Suz Strachan, service manager for SensationALL, added: “This is our largest award from a single funder to date and will be transformational for our charity.

“It will help us to invest in our team and services and will help us reach out to more individuals with complex needs and their families to build their resilience and self-esteem to lead a more fulfilling life.

“A huge thanks to the people who play The National Lottery who made this possible.”

‘Life-changing’ funding

Four groups from Aberdeenshire will share £229,830 of National Lottery funding which is part of a “bumper package” of grants announced in Scotland.

Across the country, there are 179 grants worth £5,752,948.

Kate Still, chairwoman for the National Lottery Community Fund in Scotland, announced the funding.

She said: “Local groups lie at the very heart of communities across Scotland and the work they do demonstrates just what can be achieved when people come together for a common cause or to help others.

“I am delighted that each of the projects receiving funding will be able to do just that and will make a big difference in communities across Aberdeenshire.

“National Lottery players can be proud to know that the money they raise is helping to support this vital work.”

More than £500million of “life-changing” funding was awarded to communities across the UK last year thanks to National Lottery players.

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