We’ve been helping the Choudhary family for two years this September with respite care by looking after their daughter Sofia who comes to see us for tea-time visits and one overnight stay a month.

Mum (Holly) and Dad (Baba) know that in the time Sofia is at Cherry Trees, the whole family really benefits.

‘The most important thing for me is knowing that when I drop Sofia off at Cherry Trees, she is in a safe place and for my other two children, they get what I call ‘sibling normality’. It’s that chance to do things for themselves at home, which are essential for their own development. When Sofia’s not there I can get them to help with household tasks. One of those is picking up all the apples in our orchard that have recently come down and they in return can earn some pocket money. It’s impossible to do things like this when Sofia’s there because her moods and her needs come first.’

Research has shown that children who have a sibling with a disability often get to spend less time with their parents (source: Goudie, A., Havercamp, S., Jamieson, B., & Sahr, T. (2013). Assessing functional impairment in siblings living with children with disability.) .

Holly and Baba like many of our parents are aware of this and are really happy that when Sofia’s at Cherry Trees they can spend time with her younger sister Catherine doing her favourite thing. ‘She will always ask, ‘can we go to the park now, so I can play on the yellow tunnel slide?’ It’s just so nice for me to be able to take her out to do the number one thing that she loves, being on that, free to play.’

Sofia has 10 combined conditions ranging from (and not limited to) ASD, intellectual impairment, Brown’s syndrome and an extremely rare deletion of chromosome 13Q. She struggles to settle at night and is often awake several times in the night.

‘For us we can often be up at 11pm, 1:30 am, and even 4am re-assuring her and re-settling her – it can be very tiring when I have then have to get up the next morning ready for work on such broken sleep.

Sofia’s clinical anxiety and separation anxiety means she will be up several times a night, but when she comes to us for an overnight stay Holly and Baba can relax.

“Thanks to Cherry Trees we can just not feel like ‘we are on guard’ all the time. That means not having to worry that she has run off, or being mindful of other people watching her behaviour when out in public and there is less friction between all three siblings. It’s really hard when Sofia’s there on Catherine and Oscar – they can’t play with certain toys, she can get anxious – it can be fraught.

We look forward to our evenings together because we can book a babysitter for Oscar and Catherine and go out for a meal – as a couple and then it’s just a case of deciding if it’s steak or curry.”