Who are Sparkle Sheffield?

Sparkle Sheffield is a registered charity which looks to benefit children and young people with additional needs and their families. No diagnosis is required to access any of our services, although due to personal circumstances and experience we specialise in supporting those with Autism Spectrum Conditions. This is done by providing opportunities for children and young people to access events and support in a community where they feel safe, confident and secure. In addition, we provide support from those who genuinely understand, alongside increased education about the complexities of living with children with additional needs. We share proactive strategies to deal with the challenging behaviour that Autism often presents, as well as discovering the underlying causes of difficult behaviours. By empowering parent/carers to understand the complexities of Autism, families report a happier and calmer lifestyle. We also have lots of fun in the process! Accessible activities for the whole family and unique experiences with other families in similar situations make Sparkle Sheffield a family like no other.

History Of Sparkle Sheffield

Sparkle Sheffield started in 2014 by Liesje Dusauzay as a small parent-led support group, helping to improve the lives of autistic children in Sheffield by supporting their parent/carers. In its original form the parent/carer groups were based on parent/carers bonding and making friendships to help share problems and seek advice from each other. This level of support was increased when a grant was provided to allow the group to expand into a larger parent/carers support group, making available subsidised children’s events and an office space to run parental one-to-one advice sessions.

Since its creation, Sparkle Sheffield has continued to develop at a significant rate, underpinned by the drive of dedicated professional parents pushing this expansion. An award from the National Lottery ‘Awards for All’ scheme was the first given to provide a professional Autism Fayre with autism specialist guest speakers talking on a variety of specialist subjects.

In 2019, Sparkle Sheffield was awarded 3-year funding from Children in Need, enabling the charity to increase its presence and the support it offers hugely. Events and support was increased to a larger scale, and then before we knew it the first lockdown hit! The whole team of volunteers had to learn how to use online software - and how to manage the support previously offered but at a distance - being very determined to not make any families feel isolated, especially when the whole aim of the lockdown was to remain as isolated from other people as possible! Having come out the other side, we can safely say that we didn't leave any of our families isolated during the numerous lockdowns, and instead we had so much fun! We zoomed all over the world, including to far-flung destinations including America, Japan and Australia, and learnt lots of new skills such as yoga, cooking and writing our own bedtime stories.

The expansion of the charity has been driven by the sheer demand for such services within Sheffield, and the passion for Autism Acceptance by the Sparkle Sheffield volunteers.

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What Difference Can Support Make?

When you first realise that your child will not develop in the way you had imagined it’s very difficult. A common psychological issue is the grieving for the child you thought you had and accepting the child you have. Seeing the gap between your child and their same age peers is heartbreaking. Plus, when your friends and families younger children start to overtake your own child with their development it can cause significant stress and anxiety. It’s also common for parent/carers to disagree over their child’s development and the strategies that should be used, leading to cracks within the family unit. It is well documented in various literature about the connection between stress and Special Needs parenting. Our whole society is geared up to exclude people with Neuro Differences. The way we work, live, relax and educate, is all geared toward Neuro-typical people. Although the environments do not intentionally exclude, they do essentially have the same affect, due to a lack of understanding and misconceptions.

Meeting other parent/carers in the same situation creates a community of parent/carers who can discuss, debate and learn from and with each other. Many of the traditional parenting strategies used for Neuro-typical children will not work for an autistic child. Such statements as ‘he’ll eat when he’s hungry’ and ‘she’ll drink when she’s thirsty’ are meaningless. Professional talks on these important subjects can save a family heartache and most importantly save the child from suffering. Providing the whole family with support; education and behaviourial strategies for parent/carers; activities designed to accommodate the disabilities of the autistic child; and activities for siblings so that they are able to offload any negative feelings or frustrations associated with being a brother/sister to an autistic child.

Sparkle Sheffield Ambassador

Our Ambassador Adrian Lester OBE

Adrian Lester OBE was born in Birmingham, England as Adrian Anthony Lester. He is a multi-award winning actor and director, known for seven seasons of the brilliant hit TV show Hustle (2004), the amazing films The Day After Tomorrow (2004) and Primary Colors (1998), as well as all his extensive classical work in the theatre playing characters such as Othello, Henry V, Rosalind and Hamlet to name but a few.

Adrian is proud to support Sparkle Sheffield and the incredible work that they do with autistic children and their families.

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Raising awareness is one of the most important things that we do. Thanks to BBC Look North, Sheffield TV Live and BBC’s The One Show , BBC Radio Sheffield, Hallam FM they have really helped us to make a real difference in doing just that. A HUGE thank you from all of us from Sparkle Sheffield

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