Finding respite care for Jacob’s specific needs was never going to be an easy task for his parents.

“Jacob was born special,” explains his mother, Sophie. “He has a rare genetic disorder, resulting in specific learning disabilities which include global developmental delay, sensory processing issues, behavioural issues and speech, language and communication needs.

Since we first realised that Jacob was developing differently to other babies, he has been under the care of an array of medical professionals. At home, I’ve put every effort into looking after him, finding ways to stimulate him and encouraging him to react. It took me a very long time to be OK with the idea of other people taking care of Jacob. I wasn’t willing to risk him being upset or frustrated without the ability to express himself.”

Yippee is YMCA East Surrey’s warm and welcoming playscheme for children aged 5-11 with a wide range of disabilities and complex needs. Sophie heard about the service from another parent and came to visit our West Sussex setting.

“It felt like a huge decision and, to start with, I took Jacob to Yippee with a huge folder of information for the staff and instructions to call me if they had any problems at all. I was still nervous and on edge, but every time I collected him he was so happy. The staff were amazing. They remembered everything I told them and quickly picked up on all his ways.

Yippee has been good for Jacob. He’s been coming for almost two years now and has had to adapt to other people looking after him. His communication is improving. He loves the 100% attention he gets! I know he’s safe, so I can relax while he’s there.”

YMCA Senior Disability Coordinator, Rob Felgate, says:

“I am always mindful that one of the biggest barriers we face is asking a parent to trust us and have faith in a group of strangers to look after their child with extremely complicated needs. We hope, over time, that they will value the service we offer. Sophie may have found it difficult at first but now she can see that Yippee is an enjoyable experience for Jacob.”

The respite gives Sophie and her husband time to spend with Jacob’s four-year-old sister, Millie.

“When Jacob is at home, my day has to revolve around him,” says Sophie, who is involved with a local charity called Super Siblings, which offers support to children who have siblings with disabilities. “He can’t self-play and he needs my focus all of the time. It’s so full on. He’s the king of our house and Millie’s needs have to come second.

If we go out, it’s almost impossible to find something they both enjoy. Millie is incredibly patient and caring towards Jacob, but she also deserves to have our full attention and do things that other children her age love to do, like go to the park.

Without Jacob’s time at Yippee, I would never get any time to myself. I can go for a run or just enjoy the peace and quiet. It’s the difference between feeling exhausted, irritable, on the edge of exploding and having the chance to recharge – it’s absolutely vital. My mission is to give Jacob the best possible life I can and I can’t do that if I am burnt out.

I’ve recommended Yippee to many other families. There’s not a bad word I could say about the playscheme. It’s brilliant.”