Monday, 21 March 2011

'Maplewood House is essential': A sibling's story

Maplewood house.

Where to start. My sister Sarah attended Maplewood from a young age until she was 18 when she was required to leave due to her age. Sarah has ataxic cerebal palsy as well as being extremely hyperactive and in general very demanding. She loves to run around and make as much noise as possible which made life in our house very interesting.

When my sister went to Maplewood every Tuesday night for a sleepover that gave me the chance to have some ‘normal’ time with my parents. You can't fully appreciate how much of a difference this time can make to both parents and siblings.

We could do things that every day families take for granted, we could go food shopping without worrying she would run off in the supermarket and even worse have a tantrum, we could go to the cinema which with my sister present was an impossible feat or just sit at home watching TV together, which was never possible when Sarah was home as she would just run around the house and never stop.

One weekend a month we were lucky enough that she would go straight from School on the Friday and we would pick her up on Sundays. You can't comprehend how much a weekend can mean to families in our position. A whole weekend can seem like a week, a whole weekend where you don’t have to worry did I lock the front door, is the kitchen locked, living with my sister every room apart from hers and the living room had to be locked for safety reasons.

Having a weekend or a night where you don’t have to worry is well priceless. It was during these sleepovers that my sister would go on that I had the chance to have friends over without worrying how she would be with them or what they would think of Sarah.

These nights ‘off’ we got were so invaluable to our family I don’t think I could ever put in to words the difference it made to our lives. That one night a week felt like the world had been lifted off your shoulders.

As a sibling of a disabled child it can sometimes feel like you are very alone and that you come second to your sibling. Deep down you know that you are just as important to your parents as your sibling but due to all the time and attention disabled children command it can not be helped. And the extremely valuable time where your sibling is having a sleepover at Maplewood means you are number 1 with your parents for the night. Now that might actually sound very selfish but believe me as a sibling in this situation you learn not to be selfish, you actually want to do everything you can for your sibling and spend as much time with them as you can.

The nights that my sister got to go to Maplewood became even more important when I was studying for my GCSE’s, A-Level’s and for my Degree. I knew on these nights I could study without my sister wanting to play, or my sister having a tantrum or Sarah just being Sarah and running round the house signing! These nights enabled me to study in peace and in the long run helped me to pass the exams and forge a good career for myself.

The work and support that Maplewood house provide can not have any value put on it, they provide love, care and support for the most vulnerable children there are in any county, so that parents and siblings can have a break and have some ‘normal’ family time.

Maplewood house is needed by the families of Lancashire and I for one as a sibling of a child who previously used Maplewood cannot stress enough how much of an essential facility Maplewood House is.

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