From the time he learned to roll, it was evident to Lewis’s mother, Jane, that his behaviour was very different to that of other babies. 

“He began to roll and he didn’t stop,” she explains. “He rolled continuously around our flat, over and over.” 

Although official diagnosis was frustratingly slow, Lewis has since been found to have autism, ADHD, speech and language difficulties, epilepsy, brain damage, OCD, PDA, high sensory needs and challenging behaviour. 

Now 11, he has been attending our Yippee playscheme in Epsom for the past three years. 

“At home, I live in a state of hyper-vigilance,” says single parent Jane. “Lewis’s sister Ivy is five years old and currently undergoing a diagnosis for ADHD. At every minute of the day, I need to know where each of them is and what they are doing.” 

Yippee is YMCA East Surrey’s warm and welcoming playscheme for children aged 5-11 with a wide range of disabilities and complex needs. Our experienced team have special training in behaviour management and communication methods. The high staff to child ratio allows each child the support they need, from those at the milder end of the spectrum to those with high level needs and physical disabilities. 

When Lewis first began attending Yippee, he struggled to socialise or interact with other children and found it difficult to vocalise his needs. 

Harriet Stoffell, Disability Services Coordinator for YMCA East Surrey, says: 

“Lewis’s behaviour was really challenging and he would often lash out in frustration at staff or other children. Since then, we have worked closely with Lewis, his family and his school, and have seen a massive improvement.” 

“Lewis is now able to join in with group activities, express himself to staff and is safe whilst out in the community. Yippee is Lewis’s chance to have fun and enjoy the activities and outings which his mum isn’t able to provide.” 

Jane is honest about what the Yippee sessions that Lewis attends mean to her. 

“I need the breaks,” she says. “The recent lockdown periods were brutal. Lewis missed the interaction with other children hugely. Not only did I not get a break, but I also didn’t even have the relief of knowing that a break was coming. Lewis’s anxiety increased, his sleeping pattern was all over the place and I was extremely sleep deprived. There were a lot of tears!” 

“When Lewis is at Yippee, I can finally get a few hours to myself or some time to devote to Ivy. For a short while, there is peace in the house. I can completely switch off, knowing that his needs are being fully met.”  

Lewis tells staff how much he loves Yippee and cannot wait to come back each week. 

“Lewis is smart, cheeky, funny, energetic – like most boys – but he has really huge needs,” says Jane. “Before Yippee, he constantly missed out on experiences because we couldn’t do them together in a safe way. Now, he is able to try new things and visit different locations like the beach and adventure parks.” 

“Harriet is a saint and the staff are amazing. I owe my sanity levels to YMCA East Surrey and Yippee.”

Find out more about Yippee