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Fundraise on the First: Gidea Park mum speaks of the ‘lifeline’ which is First Step

PUBLISHED: 10:29 20 April 2015 | UPDATED: 10:29 20 April 2015

Sally Hill with her son Alex, nine, who attended First Step when he was younger. Picture: Michelle Mitchell

Sally Hill with her son Alex, nine, who attended First Step when he was younger. Picture: Michelle Mitchell

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Brilliant, fantastic, marvellous – these are all words one mum has used to describe the unique charity which is First Step.

From accessing support and understanding, to forming lasting friendships with like-minded parents, Sally Hill has really seen how the charity makes a difference.

Her only child Alex, eight, was born in April 2006, but soon his family realised he was not progressing as he should have been.

Sally, who spoke to the Recorder as part of the paper’s Fundraise on the First campaign with First Step, said: “I think I knew as soon as he was able to crawl.

“He was trying to get himself away from people. If he found people in a room he would crawl out and be on his own.

“When he had his two-year check-up with a paediatrician it was picked up that he wasn’t really reaching his milestones, he was slow to do everything.

“We were told he had social communication difficulties and a speech and language delay.”

Sally, who lives with husband Richard in Gidea Park, attended family sessions with Alex at First Step after being referred.

He enjoyed music therapy at the charity, in Tangmere Crescent, Hornchurch, and went on to the PACC group (promoting attention, communication and co-operation).

The sessions are for six children who have social communication difficulties or autism spectrum disorders.

Sally said: “First Step was absolutely fantastic and kind of a lifeline, because from the start we met other parents in similar situations.

“I think it was brilliant for Alex, particularly the PACC sessions.

“It took quite a while for him to get his speech and language, but I think it would have taken him a lot longer if we hadn’t had the specialist help at First Step.”

Alex went on to a special needs nursery and is now a pupil at Squirrels Heath Junior School, in Salisbury Road, Gidea Park.

He was recently diagnosed at Great Ormond Street Hospital as having learning disabilities.

His mum said: “Some days are better than others, but I think he is a happy little boy really.

“His speech has come on terrifically. I think it is more his understanding and reasoning; he can get frustrated.

“He also finds social situations difficult. He likes playing with other children, but can’t initiate contact.

“I feel he is progressing a lot better now he is older, but he will always need help and support.”

Sally still stops by at First Step for the charity’s coffee mornings and other events.

She said: “When I first went I was a bit apprehensive, but it was the best thing I have ever done.

“The support is marvellous, the staff are brilliant and it feels like a little family at First Step.

“I have made some wonderful, lifelong friends.”

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