Save First Step: Family-of-seven with three disabled children join Hornchurch charity’s campaign

PUBLISHED: 07:00 21 March 2019

Emma and Matthew Mayes with children Bluebell 2, Alfie 11 and Ralph 4.

Emma and Matthew Mayes with children Bluebell 2, Alfie 11 and Ralph 4.


A couple with seven children have seen how essential a disability charity’s services are after three of their children made use of its specialist services.

Emma and Mathew Mayes’ children Alfie and Bluebell have a genetic condition that affects their cell development and their son Ralph has autism.

All three children have attended First Step in Tangmere Crescent, a charity that supports youngsters with disabilities and special needs.

When the couple heard the news that First Step is at risk of closure due to financial difficulties they immediately decided to donate to the cause.

Emma told the Recorder: “I was really upset when I found out because First Step means a lot to so many people.

“The help that they give - even if it’s just to sit with you while you’re crying - means a lot as a parent.

“It’s such a worthwhile charity and you can really see where the funding is going.

“We don’t have much money wise, but what little we have we will happily donate. It’s not about making sure First Step is there for our daughter, but making sure it’s all there for all future families and children that will need it.”

Emma and Mathew were first referred to First Step in 2008 when their 11-year-old son Alfie, was diagnosed as being profoundly deaf.

“Your whole world comes to a standstill because you just can’t get your head around why this is happening,” said Emma.

“It went from discovering that he was deaf to finding out that there were other issues.

“First Step is what kept us going. They were treating him for muscular dystrophy because his whole body was floppy and First Step would go to the doctor appointments with us.

“The help that they provided was amazing.”

Alfie has Usher’s syndrome Type 1b which is caused by the abnormal development of hair cells in the inner ear. He was born deaf and is now registered blind.

Emma’s two-year-old, Bluebell also has the same genetic condition and currently attends First Step for support. She is profoundly deaf and wears cochlear implants.

As a mother-of-seven Emma was also grateful for the support the charity gave to the whole family.

She said: “It was hard for them. They were so young and they were being dragged to all of the hospital appointments.

“At that time First Step had sessions for siblings and to be able to just go and play was a good thing for them.”

The couple self referred their four-year-old son to First Step when he was diagnosed with autism.

“Ralph was diagnosed with autism at such a young age and it was extremely difficult,” said Emma.

“By the time I got to First Step I was just constantly exhausted and tired out.

“When you’re living with a diagnosis it can completely control your life. There’s no break because even going to the super market is such an ordeal, that in the end you don’t want to leave the house.”

First Step is currently trying to raise £200,000 to avoid having to reduce its services, such as its promoting attention, communication and co-operation (PACC) sessions.

These are specifically for youngsters with social communication difficulties or autism spectrum disorders.

Emma said to lose them would be “a huge blow” for the children.

She added: “The PACC sessions are a huge help. If I was out and about and Ralph went into a melt down people would give us looks and ask why we couldn’t control our child.

“When you go to First Step and they’re all having a melt down together - I don’t have to tell him anything, I can just let him do what he needs to do. It’s a massive relief.”

First Step is not only looking for donations, but for volunteers, ambassadors and DIY help with its plans to launch a nursery.

To find out how you can get involved visit

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