Jake lives with his mum, Nichola, his dad, and his younger brother, Alex. He is a happy young boy who enjoys sensory activities. He has recently started horse riding with Riding for the Disabled, which gives over 90 children and adults the opportunity to join in social activities and competitions.

Jake was diagnosed with Autism when he was four-years-old after his parents and grandparents fought for a year to get him a diagnosis. Due to his Autism, Jake has Global Developmental Delay, meaning that the 10-year-old has the mental age of a three-year-old. He needs help with his day-to-day life, including with going to the toilet and putting himself to bed. He cannot read and can only make marks rather than write.

Jake struggles to leave the house and with people coming into his house. As he often cannot communicate his needs and feelings, he will have a meltdown when his parents try to get him to leave the house, when other people come into his house, when Nichola leaves the house, or when he is out of routine.

Nichola said:

I can’t say the last time Jake’s been to a park because he can’t cope with it. He really struggles to go anywhere at the moment. It’s a massive battle.

He used to struggle going out a little bit before COVID in the sense that he can’t be in busy crowds, but we knew what he could and what he couldn’t do. But now, we can’t leave the house. He would just hide away and be sat in our bed all day watching telly, which is not great, but it’s the only thing that he would do because he doesn’t play.

Without the right equipment, Jake struggles to regulate his emotions and calm himself down. It can become difficult for the family, particularly Alex who wants to play with his brother.

Nichola said, “I’d say it really affects Alex because he can’t play the things he wants to play. He got really upset a couple of weeks ago because Jake can’t play boardgames. So I was playing a boardgame with Alex when he said ‘Will my brother ever be able to play with me?’ And I can’t answer that question.

“It’s simple things, like they got scooters for Christmas so Alex wants to go out on the scooter. But Jake struggles with the coordination so we can only go out on the scooters for five minutes if we get him out at all because he can’t cope with it. So we’re lucky if we even get across the road before coming back home.”

Alex attends a young carers group at school and will be eligible to join Carers Oxfordshire next month when he turns eight. He has the opportunity to meet other children in a similar situation and whose home lives look similar to his own.

However, the family’s home life has recently changed. When Nichola saw a Facebook video of Omi’s budii projector, she knew it would be ideal for Jake. The projector system responds to movement to provide sensory stimulation through interactive games, quizzes, and virtual painting.

When she found out the projector was £3,200 and out of her price range, Nichola was pointed towards Variety, the Children’s Charity. We were able to fund the projector to provide the family with the sensory equipment Jake needs to calm himself down and regulate his emotions.

Jake can’t wait to play with the projector after school

Nichola said:

He comes home from school and he can’t wait to go on the projector. He’s been interacting with his brother and they’ve been playing together. He’s actually asking for it rather than making sounds and pointing. He’s actually pointing to it and saying ‘on please’, so I think it’s a massive communication thing for him. There are quizzes and things on it for him, so I think it will open up his speech.

I’m hoping that now that we have some sensory equipment, at least when he does have a meltdown because we’ve tried to get him out of the house or because it’s a change of routine, the budii will help and give him that sensory environment that he needs to help himself calm down and regulate himself. But it will also give him that social interaction and hopefully he can go out and be around people again a bit more.

It’s just been amazing to see him and to actually see him playing and doing something that he enjoys. It’s really amazing to see, and we haven’t had a meltdown this week, so that’s even better. I think he’s just really happy. It’s a fantastic bit of kit.

Thanks to the new equipment, not only has Jake been happier and calmer, but Alex has been enjoying spending time with his big brother and learning to play together.

Jake and Alex play together on the budii projector

Nichola said, “I’m just in shock that it is actually here and we’ve got it because never in a million years did I think he’d get it. I’m very, very grateful to Variety for everything that they’ve done for our family because it’s just going to be a massive change for our lives.”

Having an Autism diagnosis has been a great help for Jake and his family. As well as support groups for the family, the diagnosis means Jake has gained a place in a special educational needs school that specialises in Autism, which is the ideal educational environment for him. The family are now pursuing an anxiety diagnosis for Jake in the hopes of opening more doors for treatment to help him get out into the world without fear.

Reflecting on attitudes towards Autism, Nichola said:

I do think Autism is sort of out there now and spoken about, but I wish that people could see the world through Jake’s eyes so they would know how to interact with him and not just ignore him or avoid him, but for them to understand his world a little bit more.

But I do think it is spoken about more now than it was. I just wish that there was more help available and it wasn’t so long to get the help, because it is unfortunately our children who suffer.