Mum behind US-style camp for autistic children hails impact
A mum who was inspired to set up an intensive therapy camp after struggling to raise a child with autism has told of its "incredible" results.
Grainne Ashe and her husband Anthony faced daily difficulties with their young daughter Rose.
The pair (both 49) used their savings to take the family to Adam's Camp, a week-long residential retreat in America that helps people with autism.
Grainne, who lives in Newtownabbey, was so astounded by the progress made by Rose (now 10) that she agreed to open the first Adam's Camp outside of the US.
Three years on the move is proving highly successful.
Grainne, also mum to Grace (13) and Rowan (9), explained: "From (when) Rose was about 15 months we noticed she was very sensitive, she would put her fingers in her ears if there was noise, she had lots of sensory issues, like with brushing her teeth and cutting her nails, she couldn't go outside in the rain.
"It was difficult for everyone; my oldest daughter almost became like a carer.
"Rose really struggled with her morning routine. Trying to get her ready took two adults working with her 45 minutes and Grace had to get her little brother ready.
"It was so hard, but we had to put all our energies into the child who had the greatest need at the time."
Grainne and Anthony endured years of sleepless nights as Rose struggled to sleep due to her autism. The family was becoming increasingly isolated as leaving the house was such a traumatic experience for everyone.
Grainne turned to the internet to look at services around the world to address the challenges faced by children with autism.
But everything she found meant being away from home for months on end - until she discovered Adam's Camp, a charity offering week-long personalised and intensive therapy to families of autistic children.
The following summer the whole family travelled to Nantucket, Massachusetts, to spend a week at the camp.
They were asked to select a series of goals for Rose, and they asked for help to encourage her to eat cucumber and to eat with a spoon.
Incredibly, as a result of the therapy, she achieved both.
She also used the toilet for the first time in her life.
After returning from America Grainne received an email from Adam's father, the founder of the charity, saying he felt she was the right person to set up the first Adam's Camp outside of America.
"I told him I had to think about it, but I was so impressed by what they were doing and I was so aware of how the camps are run that I agreed," said Grainne.
The first Adam's Camp here took place at Corrymeela in Ballycastle in 2016.
"It takes an unbelievable amount of work to arrange a camp but we have seen such incredible results," she explained.
"We had one boy who hadn't had a bath or shower for two-and-a-half years; his mum was cleaning him with baby wipes all that time.
"By the second day he was in the shower and by the end of the week he was swimming in the pool.
"I've had people tell me Adam's Camp saved their marriage."
Meanwhile, Rose has continued to flourish.
She now loves parties, she has taken part in an Irish dancing festival, and she has even received an award from the principal at her school for excellent work and being a good friend.
Grainne added: "I don't like to think of what would have happened if I hadn't found Adam's Camp.
"I describe the days before we went to America as very dark days; I still find it very hard to talk about them.
"When your child is diagnosed with autism you're told all the things they'll never do, but Adam's Camp doesn't put limitations on your child."
To find out more about Adam's Camp, log on to the website at adamscampnorthernireland.org.