In July 2013, our beautiful baby girl Ava was born. Ava was happy and healthy and was developing well in all areas of her life - she learned to walk at eight months and was fully communicative saying words like Daddy, Mummy, ball and strawberries.
However, between the ages of 15-18 months, Ava lost some of the first words we learned together and started to regress. At the age of 3 our world collapsed with the news that our daughter had Autism and was currently non-verbal. We had no idea what autism was let alone how this could have happened but we were determined to do everything we could to bring our baby back to us.
Throughout this period, we were thrust into multiple roles as Ava’s advocate, teacher, speech therapist and parents while juggling busy careers to help finance the additional therapies Ava needs to her reach her potential.
All the while our own mental and physical wellbeing was deteriorating under the pressure of the diagnosis and all that this meant for Ava and our family. Our expectations of parenthood had been completely shattered and both my husband and I were grieving for the life we had within our grasp but so quickly lost.
In the early days, we focused all of our energy into securing the right support for Ava in the hope that this would make everything better. Although, we soon realised this was not happening as the feelings of grief and loss remained.
We reached out for support from some established charities. To our surprise there was very little support available for the parents and families coping with similar challenges. The majority of support available was geared towards individuals with autism and or training for parents and professionals at a cost.
All of this was useful but it was not the kind of support required by desperate parents struggling to come to terms with an Autism diagnosis. After meeting with other parents it became clear that there was a massive gap in support for parents and families so we decided to do something about it.
Avalon was established in 2017, to provide support to parents and families caring for children with autism. The charity is named after my daughter Ava as she has provided me with the source of inspiration and strength to do something meaningful to turn this difficult experience into an opportunity to support other families.