New Supporter stories

We are delighted to share the following stories, written for us by some of our families.

We are grateful to each of them for describing their personal experiences and for letting us be a part of their journeys.

Timothy's Story (Jigsaw School)

Timothy, like many people with autism, finds it hard to cope with new situations and changes to daily routines. Thanks to Jigsaw’s support, while the pandemic has been causing disruption to our daily lives, Timothy has the tools he needs to manage. Timothy’s mum, Adele, kindly told us their story:

“When Timothy was younger we were struggling with his behaviour and we simply couldn’t find a way of engaging him in learning. We met other parents of autistic children and heard about ABA. Working with an educational psychologist who suggested this could be a great option for Timothy, we combined his mainstream schooling with a home ABA programme. Unfortunately, his school at the time didn’t seem to understand what we were trying to do and wouldn’t adapt. It got to a point where we pulled Timothy out of school completely and continued with just the home programme.

We moved to Hampshire when Timothy was 11 and we decided it was time to look for a special school because we felt it was important for him to be around other children. We were worried that Timothy would be seen as having significant needs and that therefore expectations for him would be lower. We didn’t want that for our son.

We couldn’t believe our luck when we found Jigsaw. From the beginning it was obvious that the values and commitment from everyone at Jigsaw are second to none. I have total trust they’ll do everything they can to help Timothy reach his potential and focus on what he can do, rather than what he can’t. They challenge him a good amount; he’s encouraged and knows what is expected of him but he’s never over-pushed so that he feels like he can’t do something and loses confidence. Jigsaw understands the way autistic children learn and their approach allows children to succeed. I think it’s really important that we can see progress using data too, so we know he’s moving forward.

There are so many ways Jigsaw has made a difference for us. Timothy’s behaviour has always been very challenging and I have no doubt that without Jigsaw’s support using Behaviour Analysis he would be in full-time residential care because we wouldn’t be able to manage at home. As well as this, his communication, verbal understanding and ability to express himself have all come along massively.

Perhaps the best thing Jigsaw has done is help Timothy to understand more about how the world works around him. They’ve allowed him to make sense of the world and see where he fits. We set out schedules for Timothy and now he can understand the concept of ‘tomorrow’ and ‘in 7 days’ time’. It makes the world less scary to him the more he can understand.

It’s made such a big difference when dealing with the pandemic and lockdowns over the past year. Normally Timothy and I go to Starbucks together at the weekend and we’ve had to explain to him why we can’t do that at the moment and when we will be able to go again. We have to use simple terms, like saying that people are getting sick and that police have closed the shops, but he’s processing it really well because he has those communication skills and that understanding. Jigsaw have been absolutely phenomenal over the past year and we’re so grateful that he’s still got his daily routine.

Next year, when Timothy turns 19, we’re planning for him to go to JigsawPlus. We didn’t really want him to go anywhere else because we’re always confident he’s safe at Jigsaw. I just want him to be happy and I hope that, once we can’t shelter him anymore, he will have the tools to cope with supported living. His communication is vital for that because he’ll have to be able to tell people what he needs. Timothy may never be able to go shopping or take a bus on his own, but as long as he can understand the situations he’s in and knows how to behave then his world can be broader. I know Jigsaw will encourage and teach him to be independent to the extent he can be.”

NB: individual names and images have been changed to protect their privacy

Sally's Story (Jigsaw School)

I wanted to share my story which will hopefully give you an insight into how important Jigsaw Trust’s work is to all the individuals and families they support.

I’m a single parent with a 17-year-old daughter who has Autism, additional learning difficulties, ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder and Selective Mutism. I know my daughter will require lifetime care.

Throughout her short life I have struggled and fought to get my daughter the special education and therapy provisions she needs. I’ve lost my business, my life savings and my good health along the way. It’s been a severely challenging, exhausting and extremely emotional journey.

At 10 years old my daughter was attending her second special needs school which simply could not cope with her complex special needs. She had been regressing rather than moving forward and it was clear that I needed to find something different before things got even harder for us.

Then I discovered Jigsaw Trust.

Before my daughter started at Jigsaw School she couldn’t “talk” outside the home. She would only try to speak in front of me and her grandmother. In addition, she couldn’t stay in the same room if anyone else was in it, she couldn’t cross thresholds into other rooms without falling to the ground overwhelmed with sensory overload. She couldn’t feel pain.

She covered her eyes when she heard loud noises and she covered her ears when she saw bright lights. She couldn’t make eye contact, show affection or concentrate on anything for longer than a minute.

Worst of all, she couldn’t understand what was happening in the world around her from one minute to the next. She was permanently frightened, volatile and extremely difficult to manage. She was scared of everything in our world, a danger to herself and others, unable to understand any shouts of warning and with no comprehension of staying safe.

I honestly struggled to see how Jigsaw would cope with all that, when other schools had not been able to come close. I knew they were different to other special needs schools and from my initial visits I could see how passionate and caring the staff were. But I honestly didn’t think anywhere could achieve what Jigsaw School has.

My daughter has simply blossomed at Jigsaw. She is now 17 year’s old, she can’t wait to go to school. Her confidence and communication has improved significantly and that’s made such big difference. She can now read well and write. She understands jokes, can run rings around a computer and takes personal care of herself.

She’s able to recognise some feelings in others and she’s kind to her peers. Her comprehension means I can negotiate with her in simplistic terms and explain events and decisions so she can understand what’s happening in our world.

Most importantly, she looks me in the eye and she tells me she loves me, and I can tell she means it too. I nearly died the first time she said that!  Jigsaw has achieved all this. Jigsaw pulled my child out of her silent, lonely and closed off world into my world, and then gave her some basic tools to cope with it.

Jigsaw Trust is a truly remarkable charity and I’ve seen first-hand the massive difference Jigsaw makes to the lives of our most vulnerable children and young adults and consequently to the lives of their family members.

Thank you for reading my account. Whatever your circumstances, whether you’ve seen your own child, friend or relative blossom at Jigsaw or whether you already recognise the incredible work this charity offers, hopefully this has given you another insight into the wonderful work Jigsaw Trust continues to offer.

NB: individual names and images have been changed to protect their privacy

Rashad's Story (Jigsaw School)

My son Rashad is 12 years old and he’s a happy and hyper teenager. When he was just 2 years old he stopped talking, which led to him being diagnosed with severe communication disorder and autism.

It was a very difficult time; we had to make a lot of sacrifices to set up a home programme to give him support. When we started looking at schools, we weren’t sure if a special school was the right place, but Rashad’s tutors recommended Jigsaw. Now I know we made the best choice.

One of Rashad’s biggest struggles is with his speech and language. When he was 5 we were told he had the mental age of a 9-month-old. He would only say one word at a time which made it difficult for him to interact with others. Thanks to Jigsaw’s Speech and Language Therapy, Rashad’s communication has improved so much. He asks questions and has conversations. Last time he was assessed, his speech was at the level of a 5 year old, which is fantastic progress.

Jigsaw has always been very supportive. Rashad loves music and music makes him really happy, so we wanted him to have piano lessons. Jigsaw has set this up in school and Rashad is doing really well, we’re so proud of him. He has a great memory so he knows some pieces by heart that he will play for us at home. Rashad also goes horse-riding and I’m happy that Jigsaw takes him for swimming lessons too because it’s an important life skill.

Our experience at Jigsaw has been life-changing. The biggest thing is that I know Rashad is in safe hands and I don’t have to worry. Not everybody with a child with disabilities has that. My life is busy and stressful as it is, so knowing my son is safe and happy every day – I can’t put it into words. I can’t thank Rashad’s teachers enough. There is nowhere like Jigsaw.

NB: individual names and images have been changed to protect their privacy

Owen's Story (JigsawPlus)

Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means that everyone experiences it differently. Jigsaw supports individuals with higher needs; in addition to social and communication challenges, our pupils and learners may need support with behaviour that challenges, sensory processing disorders, or personal care.

We believe that with the right support anyone can learn new skills and become more independent, no matter the barriers they face. We put this into practice when supporting Owen. Owen, who is 23, is autistic and has a learning disability. He started at Jigsaw when he was 11 and is now supported at JigsawPlus. His mum Hayley told us about how Jigsaw has helped him develop skills beyond all expectations:

Owen’s progress at Jigsaw has been absolutely amazing. I had zero expectations for him when he was younger because his disability was so severe. He’s got so many skills now that he would never had had if not for Jigsaw.

The list is endless. Owen’s language was very limited before, but now he speaks and has all his needs met by speech. He reads and can write well, he’s great at using the computer, he swims brilliantly. There are so many things – he’s even learning Spanish! He doesn’t make sentences but he can translate loads of words.

Although Owen won’t ever be able to live on his own he’s got tons of independent skills. Jigsaw have helped him learn to dress himself, wash himself, and feed himself. With supervision he can cook too.

Before, his behaviour was so challenging, it felt like he was out of control. He would pull my hair and bite me. He didn’t understand anything and was very locked away in his autism. Jigsaw have helped close the gap between his world and mine. Now he generalises his skills very well and he references things going on around him, like pointing out what’s happening on TV. He understands and listens to instructions so it’s much easier for me to take him out places and generally have a better relationship with him. Because he has high anxiety levels sometimes he still gets confused and frustrated but overall he’s happy – and he even calls himself Mr Happy!

I’ve sacrificed a lot for Owen and I take my responsibility to him seriously. I’m not someone who gives up easily. But if Owen didn’t have the right support then I wouldn’t be able to have him home with me. He would have had to go into residential care a long time ago because I wouldn’t have been able to manage. Jigsaw gives him the support he needs and if he wasn’t getting that I don’t think I’d be able to sleep at night.”

NB: individual names and images have been changed to protect their privacy

You can make a difference for individuals like Owen, Timothy, Rashad and Sally by making a donation , whether it’s a one-off gift or by setting up a regular gift through a direct debit.

Thank you for your support.