After finding out her son had autism, Rugby mum Fay McSorley didn’t know where to turn.
So she set up a Facebook page to share online articles with others – and over the past five years it has grown into a strong network of parents and carers who provide support and guidance.
The Rugby Autism Network has just celebrated its fifth anniversary and Fay said she was “overwhelmed” with the support it has received.
Fay said: “I thought if I’m researching these things then other parents out there must be too.
“People started liking the page and taking an interest and that’s when I decided to set up a private chat group.
“The page is open to everyone and offers helpful articles but the chat group is aimed at parents and carers who can discuss their experiences with people in the same boat.”
The page has nearly 500 likes and the website, which was launched this year, has been very popular so far.
The Rugby Autism Network organises breakfast and lunch meetings, fun days, dads’ nights and various activities for children.
Fay, 38, has a three-year-old daughter Layla, a six-year-old daughter Lauren who has higher functioning autism, an eight-year-old son Conor who has classic autism, and a 15-year-old stepson Nathan.
Fay said: “Of course it can be difficult having two children who are on the spectrum, but when you get the diagnosis it’s both a shock and a relief.
“It takes a long time to accept it and that’s not unusual or a bad thing, it just takes time to get your head around it.”
Conor, who goes to Brooke School, struggles with speech, social interactions and concentration. He will need lifelong care.
Fay, a finalist in Rugby FM’s Carer the of Year award, said: “He taught himself to read at two years old, even though he didn’t speak until he was four, he understood the words.
“He could spell 12 letter words at the age of two.
“However, he does struggle with lots of things and getting used to the fact that I’ll always be his carer took some time.
“It’s normal for parents to feel that way and that’s the kind of thing we share at meetings. It helps people realise they are not alone.”
Lauren, who attends Henry Hinde Infant School, needs to have a set routine and uses a visual timetable to help her.
Speaking of the Network’s success, Fay said: “People have said it’s been a lifeline and that’s absolutely incredible to hear.”
For more information visit www.rugbyautismnetwork.co.uk or find it on Facebook.