Eight-year-old Jonathon finds it difficult to socialise with other children. He is active and energetic, but he has autism and attention deficit hyperactivity syndrome. He can’t always adapt to anything outside his normal routine and because of this, he spends most of his time at home.

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"He’s not good at playing with other children. He recently had a major tantrum too, just because we got a new sofa," his mum, Sue, explains. "He finds it very difficult to cope with new things, and that can create turmoil."

Jonathon's doctor and local social services staff put the family in touch with the local Action for Children short breaks project, which provides family link foster carers who look after disabled children with a range of needs for a few days each month.

The project matched Jonathon with Susan, an experienced short breaks foster carer who lives locally, and who has a 10-year-old son, Jack. Now, Jonathon goes to Susan's for a couple of days each month, including overnight stays.

Jonathon loves going to stay with his link family and it's really good for him.
Jonathon's mum

Susan takes the boys swimming, for walks or on picnics. Jack and Jonathon spend a lot of time just playing out in the garden, especially in the summer. Susan can understand exactly why Jonathon's family need a break every so often.

"It's as if Jonathon's on strings," she says. "He never stops bouncing about and he's on the go constantly - he only sits down to eat. He's a little darling, but it must be very tiring to have him all the time."

"Jonathon loves going to stay with his link family and it's really good for him," says his mum. "He usually finds it difficult to interact with other children but because he's got used to Jack and it's just one-to-one, he doesn't find it so overwhelming, and genuinely enjoys himself. It's made him much more confident.”

"When Jonathon is at Susan's, we can spend some time with our younger son, Peter, who often has to take second place when Jonathon is at home. Susan has meant the world to us; we don't get bogged down in thinking we can't handle things and, because we get the chance to have a regular break, we can enjoy and appreciate being with our son."

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