How £39,000 grant for Whitby community group has helped family finally "laugh and have fun together"

WHISH offers a number of activities for people with hidden disabilities and their families.WHISH offers a number of activities for people with hidden disabilities and their families.
WHISH offers a number of activities for people with hidden disabilities and their families.
A mum who was scared to leave the house with her three-year-old daughter has credited a Whitby community project funded through The Health Lottery with helping them to finally “laugh and have fun together”.

Whitby Hidden Impairments Support and Help (WHISH) received £39,925 from the People’s Health Trust for 2023-2024, for children's activities and support for families.

Amy stayed at home for two years, missing out on family days out and meet ups with other parents in fear of other people’s reaction to her daughter Annabelle’s additional needs.

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But since discovering volunteer-led charity Whitby Hidden Impairments Support and Help (WHISH) - which helps families with children with hidden impairments - Amy has found a community where she feels “safe”.

Hidden impairments are conditions which may not be obvious to other people, such as autism, learning difficulties, diabetes and depression.

Amy said: “Annabelle is in a special educational needs provision within her nursery and they started to use the sensory room at WHISH.

“We were at the point where we wouldn’t go out in public or we wouldn’t go on a family day out because of how Annabelle would react in public situations.

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"People would stop inviting us to parties because of how Annabelle behaves, or what they perceive as her behaviour.

“At nursery, she doesn’t have common ground with children, it is like she ghosts them and looks straight through them, but here, she knows she can be herself.

"If a child screams for no reason, it doesn’t matter. No-one cares.

“She is surrounded by people who have an understanding of those with additional needs so you never feel alone, only safe.”

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Amy said the project - which sees children with hidden impairments enjoy horse riding, swimming and gardening - has been a lifeline for her after previously struggling to come to terms with her daughter’s differences.

“I was rock climbing with Annabelle this morning, which we would never have done a few months ago, and the other week I was watching her as she was laughing on the bouncy castle with other children,” said Amy.

"I just stood there in tears.

"These are things she has never done before and when I look at her and see her happy, it makes me happy.

And it wasn’t just Amy who struggled with Annabelle’s needs.

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“Autism is a completely new concept to Annabelle’s grandmother and it has been very difficult for her when providing childcare while I work,” Amy admits.

“She has struggled to come to terms with it, but she came to a coffee morning [at WHISH] and has been joining in the activities, like the puppet show and she has an understanding now.

"If we didn’t have WHISH we would still be shut up in our house not knowing what to do and not having people around us to help.”

WHISH is run by a small team of people including Jo Morris, 66, a retired head teacher of a special needs girls’ college, and a group of volunteers.

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Jo said: “Everything that we do comes from grants and the generosity of people who are playing to give something back.

“Without The Health Lottery we wouldn’t be able to do the work we do, support families and give the children these fabulous opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have.”

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