THE MOTHER of a disabled child has described an Edinburgh charity as a “lifeline” after it was awarded more than £450,000 by BBC Children in Need to help with running costs.
Caroline Murray has been a regular visitor to The Yard since son Liam was diagnosed with autism and learning difficulties at two years old.
The charity, based in Bonnington, runs an adventure playground offering disabled children and their families a safe space for both indoor and outdoor play.
Now 19, Liam first started attending The Yard as part of regular trips with his primary school, following a recommendation by teachers.
After seeing how much he enjoyed it, Caroline began making trips to the playground a regular family outing. However, she remembers the playground looking very different to the way it does now.
She said: “I would take him out on long walks by the beach. With the sounds of the waves, seagulls and other kids playing, my Liam could be as loud as he needed to be. Those were very lonely times, though.
“But when we went to The Yard, the parents and staff were so welcoming. For the first time, I felt like we had found a place where Liam could be himself and neither of us would be judged for it.
“In those days, the Yard was smaller. I remember there being a sensory room, an art room and outdoor space. It looked a little lived-in, but it had so much heart and Liam absolutely loved it.”
Caroline said she also values time spent at The Yard as an opportunity to socialise with other parents of disabled children, allowing her the chance to discuss issues with others who understand the pressures and concerns that come with the responsibility. She added: “I remember one instance where I felt desperate and crying, not knowing what to do, but a couple of the mums came over and gave me a hug.
“For me, it was the reassurance and knowing that I’m not alone in this that made it bearable.
“It’s an opportunity for Liam to get out of the house and enjoy himself. At the Yard we can play together or he can just enjoy some time outdoors, sitting under the trees, watching the clouds go by.
“He also knows and trusts the staff and that provides some kind of consistency for him, which is so important. As he gets older, it’s challenging to find things he can actually enjoy, but his love of the Yard is something that has never wavered.”
The Yard recently benefited from a three-year grant of almost £100,000 for supported play sessions, taking the total amount provided to the charity by Children In Need up to more than £450,000.
The charity now supports 300 projects across Scotland, including 42 different sites in Edinburgh with more than £2.8million worth of funding.