We’ve supported Callum, who is non-verbal and autistic, for ten years in North Shields. We speak to his mum Julia about her happiest memories, the advice she'd give her younger self and what a difference good support makes.

How would you describe Callum?

Happy, adventurous and content. With people he knows well, Cal is very loving and shows his wicked sense of humour.

Does Callum ever surprise you with things he does?

All the time! The team have been working with him to develop his life skills and I still get emotional when I see him taking his plate to the table or making his own drink, with support. As he gets older he is becoming much more confident in making his needs known.

What do you find most difficult about being the parent of a child with disabilities?

When he was young it was difficult watching him fall further behind other children. I often can’t help but worry about him, but he’s 30 now and I know he’s safe. He’s probably the safest he’s been in his whole life.

What last made you smile?

On holiday, Callum was in the swimming pool and I was by the side. He came right over to me, came up out of the water and put his cheek on my cheek. It was just lovely.

What are your happiest memories of Callum?

There have been lots, like seeing him so happy when he was swimming with dolphins! A memory that’s stayed with me is from when he was about three and I had been trying to help his development. He stood behind curtains and started playing peek-a-boo with me and that was a major connection for us. I wouldn’t have taken a million pounds in exchange for that, it was just a lovely experience.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t worry about Callum’s future as it will work out better than you could ever expect. I was constantly worried before about what’s going to happen in the future when I’m not around. People used to stay in long-stay hospitals a lot and I didn’t want that for Callum, so it drove me to work really hard to achieve something different.

What makes the difference between good and bad support?

Good communication, teamwork and having the person you are supporting at the centre of all that you do. Callum has physical communication rather than verbal, so it’s really important for his support team to understand how he communicates. The relationship and communication I have with the team is also really excellent which makes a big difference.

How has United Response’s support made a difference to Callum’s life?

The team that care for Callum have given him everything – including his skills, independence and confidence! They have helped him overcome tough times and celebrated with us all when he has achieved new challenges. They’ve enabled our family to achieve things that without them just would not have happened. They are so caring and loving, and they go above and beyond on a daily basis. It’s amazing to know how much Callum means to them.

Want to hear more stories from family members of people we support?

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Find out how we support people with autism:

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