Ben is 10 years old and has cerebral palsy, severe learning disability and is on the autism spectrum. He cannot use verbal communication to make his needs known.

He first came to stay with his foster carers in early May 2015 as an emergency placement who now have him on a long-term shared care plan with his mother. She is a single parent who had reached crisis point while caring for him, so our foster carers agreed to have him on weekends and holidays.

I remember the look of apprehension in his eyes when he first came to stay with us. He didn't know or trust us and felt very scared.
Ben’s foster parents

"We discovered he loves music so we always keep his iPad close so he can listen to his favourite tunes and sing along. Over that first weekend we also discovered he could be challenging when something didn’t go his way and that it would take time and patience to fully understand his needs and gain his trust an over the coming months we had many incidents of challenging behaviour."

"Ben would often bite, scratch and kick, but having experience of how to de-escalate this kind of behaviour through training from Action for Children helped. His mum found it very difficult to take him out to experience new opportunities so we wanted to find activities to help him develop as he was very isolated and spent much of his free time on his iPad or Xbox."

"In the beginning it was very difficult to motivate him – even getting him to sit on his wheelchair presented challenges. We eventually managed to encourage him to come to his chair using balloons as win-win situation. We would then have a stock of balloons for him to bang as we went for short walks."

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Sometimes he would become distressed when out walking and use his feet to push his wheel chair back in protest, scratch the hands of whoever was pushing him and often shout out but eventually he started to enjoy his walks and we no longer had to coax him to get into his wheelchair. Using signs and symbols, and eventually verbal prompts, he willingly got into his chair to come for a walk.

We even got to the stage where he no longer needed the security of balloons and could enjoy just going for walks. This took months but once achieved we were more confident to try other activities. We also started taking him to a special needs play area where he could crawl around freely and play on the swings, slides, sand and water play.

We still had periods where things were difficult, but he was making progress. There are so many other things that he’s developed at and I’m so proud of him.
Ben’s foster carer

Ben started looking pleased to see me when I picked him up and I understood that he was finally trusting me. He’s done so well over the past year. We’ve seen further change over the winter months – he spends more time sitting with us, sometimes with his iPad or balloons, but in our company.

We continue to understand that Ben will need our love and support to grow and will be there every step of the way.

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