“A normal life is more than we could have hoped for, but for a few hours every weekend Short Breaks gives us that.”

Mum Lisa Warren is well used to handling the stress of life not going according to plan, for her first born daughter, Stephanie, was diagnosed with a brain tumour at just a few days old.

“Everything seemed fine at first but then her head began to swell," Lisa recalls. "Doctors told us there had been bleeding around her brain and before we really knew what was happening we were told she would have developmental issues and from then on life wasn’t what we expected.”

When Stephanie was 13, Lisa and husband Terry, were given a second unexpected diagnosis when they learned that their daughter’s more troubling behaviour wasn’t simply development problems but that she was autistic.

We knew Stephanie had a lot to deal with because she wasn’t developing like other children and also had some very strange behaviours as well.

Stephanie Warren

“She loved to play with spoons, and twist them round and round, and she was fixated with bags. She also had a terrible temper which was why we asked for help.”

Stephanie was able to access a special education school which catered for children from nursery age right through to sixth form. She also had support from the behaviour team and speech and language therapists, as well as her social worker.

Lisa adds: “When she was about 10 or 11 the social worker told us about respite care. Stephanie didn’t sleep so we welcomed the chance to have a night off each week. While she was still classed as a child she went to her respite regularly, although we could never get her to stay for more than one night.

You know it feels terrible just saying that, as though we didn’t want her around, but we have another daughter too and that break would give us the chance to devote some attention to her as well.

“We were thrilled to find out respite didn’t need to end when Stephanie transitioned into Adult Services, and that NEAS could help us.
Now 20-years-old, Stephanie has been using the North East Autism Society’s Short Breaks service for the last two years.

“When it came time to finding a new respite service for adults we went for a visit to look around the lodges at New Warlands Farm. We knew it was going to be the right place for Steph because she wanted to come back,” says Lisa.

Stephanie knows her own mind and she isn’t shy in letting you know!

Now, Stephanie stays in the purpose-built lodges at a weekend, or has time mid-week.

“It’s been more than a break away,” Lisa adds. "Steph has massively grown in confidence. She loves to cook and go out shopping. The staff make sure she is developing all the time. It’s great for us too because I can relax – have a bath and put my feet up – the kind of things other mums can do when their kids go to bed. Because autistic people don’t always work to a normal timetable it’s not just a case of making time. Sometimes there is no time.

Short Breaks helps us have a sense of normality. That might not seem much to you, but a normal life is more than we could ever have hoped for when we didn’t know if she would make it past her first birthday. Short Breaks helps us feel like a normal family. We’re really grateful for that.

Sonia Evans, Area Manager Short Breaks, says: “We’ve loved having Stephanie become one of our regular faces because it’s meant she’s been able to take ownership over her break. She’s really at home now and her confidence has grown enough to be able to initiate friendships. We’re really proud of Stephanie and glad to be playing a part in her development.”

Find out more about Adult's Short Breaks