I understand how difficult it is for some parents who have not yet embraced respite for their child. And I also understand how some parents are crying out for this service only to be let down by the system.

We all approach respite differently, and I found it very difficult to let David go to respite at the beginning. When this was first offered to David, he was in year 6 of primary school.

Before I agreed to let him go, I asked if I could call up to the house he was staying at (it was part of the organisation he attended as an outpatient) and meet with the staff. I didn’t bring David with me on this occasion.

The staff were fantastic and lovely to deal with; we sat down and had coffee, and they showed me the rooms in the house, which would suit David best—and explained what would happen when he stayed there.

They gathered information from me about all his likes and dislikes, what he does for fun, what he would like to eat, and how he socialised. The list was endless.

I still didn’t let him go.

Roll on another year, and they asked again if he would go. This time I went with David, and again, the same thing happened, except this time, they asked us to stay for dinner and meet some more staff and see if any of the people staying in respite would like to join us. It was wonderful seeing David so comfortable with the staff and his peers alike. I could see already he was comfortable (yeah, I know the problem was with me!)

So finally, I agreed to let David stay for a weekend. I asked the staff if I could call up at any time, day or night, in case I just wanted to see him, and they completely agreed.  I must have been the very worst parent for them to deal with, they also gave me the mobile number as they bring that with them when they go out as a group.

As you can imagine, respite for me was a slow burner. But I have to say for me, I was so wrong.

Because of respite, David is now more independent and social. He can see other people outside of his family and that everyone is different, and David embraces this. It made David take responsibility for maintaining social connections. Also, David loved participating in day trips and evenings out, which exposed him to new experiences, environments, and learning opportunities.

I also notice his personal growth. David tried new experiences, and he gained even more confidence and self-esteem.

Of course, now that I have come to terms with it, I look forward to it and plan things to do for myself and my other children when David is in respite.

Overall, don’t be like me and leave it so long to start this journey. I am lucky as David can speak, and if he is not happy, I hear about it. This happened once, and David refused to go, but after time, David found a new place he likes and calls it his holidays.