The Arsenal Foundation has helped to fund Family Futures, a not-for-profit adoption agency, fostering agency and therapy centre. Mum Amanda tells us how their work has helped her adopted children after a traumatic start to their lives.
“My husband Mark and myself had three boys who were all born in north London so they automatically became Arsenal fans! When they were two, four and seven we relocated to Somerset, where I grew up, but our boys still supported Arsenal.
“More recently we adopted two brothers who were one and two years old and had been in care for ten months. Their early life experiences included neglect and the toxic trio of pre and post-natal exposure to drugs, domestic violence and alcohol.
“The pre-natal alcohol exposure affected their developing brains and bodies and both boys now have a diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) – a neurodevelopmental condition with lifelong cognitive, emotional and behavioural challenges. They struggle with processing information and it’s difficult for them to put their thoughts into words, read, write, express their feelings and follow instructions. They have challenges retaining what they’ve learned and applying it in different contexts.
“They both have ADHD and can be fidgety and impulsive, which compounded by the cognitive challenges means we need eyes in the back of our heads to keep them safe. The boys also have Developmental Trauma caused by significant Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) including the prenatal alcohol exposure. This has had a huge impact on their sensory systems.
“I found Family Futures on Google when I was searching for a specialist multi-disciplinary therapy team for adopted children with Developmental Trauma and suspected FASD. I’d also heard about them from a local psychotherapist. Family Futures had been Ofsted Outstanding rated for the fourth consecutive time and were an approved Adoption Support Fund agency.
“From looking at Family Futures’ website and speaking to them, it was clear that their specialist multi-disciplinary assessment model called Neuro Physiological Psychotherapy (NPP) was simply the best. They’ve published research papers on it so it’s an evidence-based assessment approach for care experienced children like ours with complex trauma. We also liked the thoroughness of the psychological screening tools used in this assessment.
“A key draw for us was that they run an FASD consultation and advice service led by Professor Raja Mukherjee, a consultant psychiatrist and international expert in FASD. We knew they could help us.
“The Arsenal Foundation helped to fund Family Futures purchasing a trampette, a flexion disc swing, a rainbow acrobat swing, and a scooter board ramp, which we use at least once a month.
“The rainbow acrobat swing is a definite favourite with both boys. It’s like a hammock suspended from the ceiling with brightly coloured layers of silky super-strong material. The boys can be cocooned within it and gently swung, which is really comforting seeing as they missed out on essential nurture as babies.
“They’ve also used it to climb through the layers and hunt for things connected to the sensory aspect of the therapy model. It’s also often a key part of an obstacle course and treasure hunt using the trampette, scooter board and ramps.
“The equipment provides movement and play to challenge the boys’ posture, vision, and encourages them to use both sides of their body together (for motor control and planning).
For example, bouncing on the trampette creates muscle resistance and feeling through the silky layers of the rainbow acrobat swing to find things, provides tactile input. Also, lying in the rainbow acrobat swing or using the flexion disc swing provides deep pressure to soothe strong emotions and decrease high alertness.
“They both absolutely love going into the Sensory ‘Heroes’ Room at Family Futures – it’s the highlight of their therapy days. The equipment helps the boys’ notice what is going on in their bodies and what feelings they are experiencing. It’s early days, the boys’ needs are complex, but this is huge. It’s all about helping them to self-regulate and be in the ‘just right state’ in their bodies – so they can engage in the wider NPP and fulfil their potential at home, school and in life.
“They are starting to tell us when their engines are overheating! We talk about cars a lot in our house and liken a car engine dial to the way our bodies are feeling. The same terminology is used at school so we’re all working together to support the boys because of the Sensory Integration equipment the boys are using at Family Futures with their brilliant therapists.
“We are so fortunate to be able to work with Family Futures who have been a lifeline for our family who never expected that their adopted children’s needs would be so complex. We certainly didn’t anticipate they’d both have FASD. The boys were in awe to discover the amazing equipment donated by the Arsenal Foundation in the Sensory Room. It made them feel very special.
“Our older birth children have struggled having siblings with such complex needs and have been largely unsupported to make sense of this due to local funding issues. They now have some visits planned to Family Futures and are well impressed that there’s an association with the Gunners.
“From my side as a parent, having spent a lot of time on the sidelines watching my older children play football and being an Arsenal fan, it’s fantastic to see our club using its voice to raise awareness and help the amazing Family Futures organisation. We are all very proud and grateful Arsenal fans. Thank you so much to all at The Arsenal Foundation.”
For more info about adoption, fostering or therapy for children visit familyfutures.co.uk
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