Belfast Telegraph

Parents appeal for help to buy special bed for their autistic son

By Sophie Inge

For Jon and Rita Orr, a good night's sleep is a rare luxury.

Their seven-year-old son Callum, who is severely autistic and prone to self-harm, often keeps both them and his older brother wide awake.

The couple are now appealing for public help so they can buy a special bed to keep Callum safe at night.

"When he's awake he can be very boisterous and throws and climbs things," said Rita (46), from Newtownards.

"More often than not there comes a point where he becomes upset - probably due to him being so tired. And when he's upset the self-injuries occur."

Callum sometimes hurts himself by banging his head against a wall or even hitting himself in the face.

On a good night he will wake up at about 5am, but on a bad night he's wide awake any time from midnight onwards.

"And when Callum is awake he doesn't go back to sleep again," said Rita.

Some nights are so bad that Jon (47), who works full-time during the day, takes Callum out in the car at about 2am or 3am so that the rest of the family can get some sleep.

And that is just at night. When Callum, who is unable to speak and has severe learning disabilities, is not at his special needs school, his parents must keep an eagle eye on him in case he starts hurting himself.

"Touch wood there haven't been any severe injuries, but you're talking about head-to-toe bruising and cuts," said Rita.

"He's a very loveable, friendly, and boisterous child, but he does need 24/7 care."

Callum's behaviour has had a big impact on his parents and his brother Lee (9), who is also on the autistic spectrum.

Both Rita and Jon were at their wit's end when they were advised to contact the charity NewLife.

The organisation loaned them a Safespace Voyager - a mobile, free-standing bed with a soft base and sides to reduce the risk of injury.

Although the family said that the bed was not suitable for Callum to sleep in, it still provided him with a sanctuary where he feels safe.

Unfortunately, the Voyager is on loan for only six months and they urgently need to find a more permanent solution.

They have set their sights on a full-size SafeSpace bed, but it doesn't come cheap.

So far, they have managed to raise £1,659 towards this vital piece of equipment, which costs £4,977.

  • To find out how to support Callum, visit or contact the Newlife County Liaison Team on 01543 431 444 or email

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