WHEN Mandy Williams-Bland pictured her wedding day, she always dreamed of having her son Ryan by her side.

Due to the 22-year-old’s complex heath needs, the mum-of-two didn’t think it would be possible.

However, thanks to the dedicated staff at the North East Autism Society’s Adult Short Breaks provision, Ryan, 22, was able to take part in his mum’s special day.

Mandy had initially signed Ryan up for respite at Short Breaks - based at New Warlands Farm in Edmondsley - over the weekend of her wedding to John, as she thought the day might be too distressing for him.

But staff at the lodges, which are set in the idyllic Durham countryside, assured Mandy they would be more than happy to accompany Ryan to the wedding and support him so that he didn’t have to miss out on the happy occasion, which took place on Sunday 6th June at Lumley Castle.

“It was so lovely to have Ryan with us and for him to be included in the photographs,” Mandy says. “It made the whole day for me – he is my life.”

She adds: “I was really disappointed that Ryan wouldn’t be able to be with us, but I spoke to Steph and Sally-Beth and they immediately said they’d be able to bring him. 

“It made me so happy to have Ryan with us and he loved the day, he was just so happy.”

Attending the wedding isn’t the only positive impact that Short Breaks has had on Mandy and Ryan’s lives though.

The 45-year-old, from Ferryhill in County Durham, says the service has had a noticeable impact on Ryan’s wellbeing since he was started attending in September 2020. 

“He’s so much happier now, he is back to the Ryan we knew before lockdown,” Mandy explains. 

“In the past I have cried leaving him for respite, but I just don’t get that feeling anymore. I feel much more comfortable and you can just see how happy Ryan is.”

Having previously accessed respite care through other local providers, Mandy says she hopes her son will be able to continue visiting NEAS’s provision at the farm as he loves spending time with the animals and using the activity park on site. 

“Ryan is non-verbal and the staff have just adapted to the way that he communicates,” Mandy says.

“It really is a fantastic place and they do so much with him – he’s been to see the cows and the chickens at the farm, and he can use the activity park too. It’s definitely the best service of this kind that he has been to. I really want him to stay there long-term.”

Click here to find out more about Short Breaks
Photographs are copyright of Tim Elwood www.elwoodphotography.co.uk