Newcastle Special Needs Network

Children's Champion Category

In the three years that followed the birth of her youngest son Adam, 16, who has Down's Syndrome, Lindsay Booth felt utterly alone.

She felt overwhelmed by what she describes as "wading through the minefield of social services" in order to find support.

"I'd had five miscarriages before Adam's birth, so had declined the amniocentesis test that highlights Down's Syndrome out of fear it might have brought on another," says Lindsay, 47.

"All I could think about was hanging on to my pregnancy and the baby I so longed for."

When she discovered her new baby had Down's syndrome, Lindsay was shocked. "I felt bewildered, confused and upset. The nurses and doctors seemed to be focusing on the negative and even suggested that I may want to give him up for adoption. But there was never any question in my mind that my son wouldn’t be coming home with me."

Lindsay gave up her career as a pharmacist so she could care full-time for her son, who has a mental age of five.

"It's incredibly difficult having a special needs child in the beginning," she says. "It's easy to presume that someone will step in and talk you through absolutely everything from caring for your child to the benefits you're entitled to, but that is just not the case. I felt as though I was left floundering."

When Adam was three, Lindsay and her husband Peter were introduced by her doctor to the Newcastle Special Needs Network. The project provides free and invaluable advice, information and support to parents of children with disabilities.

Set up by local parents, the organisation has run for over a decade and in the past five years has received two National Lottery Grants, the first for £90,000 and the second for £196,000.

The money has helped provide the services of two advice workers, who can visit families in their homes and created a newsletter advising parents of all services and facilities in their area.

"The very first time I attended a meeting, I met two women who are now my closest friends, both with special needs children the same age as Adam," says Lindsay. "It was such a relief and I thought immediately, 'I'm not alone anymore, I'm not the only person in this situation.' Our three boys are still close friends today."

Adam, who is now in the 6th form, plans to go to a special needs college next year where he is looking forward to "digging in the garden and performing on stage". He also hopes to get a part time job at the college's café.

"Adam is very sociable, he loves golf and football and is a delight to be around," says Lindsay. "But it's largely thanks to Newcastle Special Needs Network that I've had the support needed to be a good mother and to help him lead as normal a life as possible."

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