As today is World Autism Awareness Day, we would like to introduce you to 16-year-old Natalie. Natalie is autistic and is very proud of this.
What is autism? The National Autism Society describes Autism as a “lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others.
Autistic people see, hear and feel the world differently to other people. …autism is not an illness or disease and cannot be ‘cured’. Often people feel being autistic is a fundamental aspect of their identity.
Autism is a spectrum condition. All autistic people share certain difficulties but being autistic will affect them in different ways. “
To raise awareness for Autism Natalie had a haircut. Perhaps for many this sounds like a simple thing, but Natalie contemplated this cut for a long time, and it is something that is very difficult for her because her hair is one of her triggers. Natalie doesn’t like anyone touching her hair and is only comfortable with her mother styling her hair. And a haircut can change one’s appearance which as Natalie considered this it was very challenging BUT, like everything else in her life that has proven a challenge, Natalie stepped up to it!
Without adding detail, she was abruptly made aware of the horror that is cancer which made an impact on her. She loves the fact that she can help in a small way by donating her hair to help make a wig for a young person. Natalie took time to prepare herself for the hair cut and initially the date was set for 5th April, but the school Natalie attends wanted to get involved and support her, so she had her hair cut at school on March 26.
If you would like to help and support Autism Awareness and Natalie in particular, you can do so through JustGiving. Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving – they’ll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity. So, it’s the most efficient way to donate – saving time and cutting costs for the charity.
There is still time to support and encourage Natalie!
Why is awareness important? Chatting with Natalie’s mum, Georgina, she said,
“Natalie received her diagnosis about 10 years ago now and we received literally no support. I have been delighted at how much this has changed. Awareness and understanding of Autism is so important to us because it’s not an easy journey. ”
We asked Natalie’s mum what advice she would have for parents whose child has just received a diagnosis, she said
“Advice is hard!! Ehm it’s a long, hard but very rewarding journey. It’s important to remember that an autistic person isn’t broken, they don’t need fixed. Their brain works differently from a non-autistic person. I’ve always taught Natalie this and to be proud that she thinks differently because it’s pure and beautiful. You need a whole lot of love, time and patience but also perseverance because anything is possible but in their own time. We talk about changes if possible, for a long time before it happens. Most importantly, don’t feel peer pressured by parents with children of the same age as they will never be the same. I have learned so much from having Natalie and unfortunately the world is full of judgemental people with little time or patience it’s tough, but I don’t hide this from her. She needs to be able to stand up for herself and be proud. I make lots of mistakes and am still learning too.”
Domaine Du Sourire is a holiday complex with 4 gites, 3 of which are accessible. It is our vision to make holidays accessible for everyone, a space where you can holiday without feeling judged. Not only do we have 3 accessible gites we have a soft play and a sensory room on site. We welcome those with the so-called hidden disabilities such as Autism, ADHD, learning difficulties to name a very few, this is the main reason the Sensory room was built so a space for kids or adults to go to for a break. This year we are revamping our sensory garden too. Families and individuals, with disability or with no disability, are welcome to enjoy a memorable holiday experience at Domaine Du Sourire.
If we were to turn our Facebook or Instagram page green this month you could be forgiven for thinking that given our Irish roots, we are celebrating St Patrick’s in style. However green is also the colour for Cerebral Palsy Awareness and March is CP Awareness Month!
Do you know what Cerebral Palsy is? The main symptoms of cerebral palsy are problems with movement, co-ordination and development. However, it’s not a one size fits all, there are four main types of cerebral palsy and many variations within these types. No two people with the disability will be the same way.
So, what can you do for Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month?
Don’t be apprehensive of people with cerebral palsy. Introduce yourself, say, “Hello, how are you?” have a conversation …Who knows you might find a best friend, or even a future spouse. Cerebral palsy is what a person has. It is not a statement about who they are.
You could educate others and spread awareness on cerebral palsy
Wear green this month and support Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month
Domaine du Sourire caught up with Danny Furey, retired Scottish Paralympian. Scottish born Danny competed in the 1988 Seoul Olympics and was selected for the Barcelona Paralympics in 1992.
Impressions on meeting this inspirational man are his wonderful sense of humour, indomitable Christian spirit and genuine humility. Danny has communication challenges, but this does not inhibit him being great company, his great-nephew Daniel said of him “he is the type of guy you could sit and listen to for hours! He has filled his life with so many adventures, the stories never run dry.” You cannot walk away untouched by this man whose smile is infectious and whose heart almost explodes with a care for others.
Danny told me he was born in June 1950 in Dundee, the youngest of three. Danny went on to say:
“I was born with Cerebral Palsy as a result of the rhesus syndrome which then was called the blue baby syndrome. I lived, some didn’t. Some are physically impaired, whereas some have mental problems, and yet some have both. I lived at home for the first 5 years then it was suggested that I go to a special school in Edinburgh where I boarded until I was 16 years old getting home for the school holidays, it was tremendous strain on my family especially mum & dad.”
What drew you into wheelchair racing?
“I never thought of entering wheelchair athletics until I was 31 or32. I can’t remember exactly what drew me to competitive racing because my first love was football in sports, which was out for me. Although now they have wheelchair football and wheelchair rugby which, with my competitiveness, would have been a bit dangerous. Had these sports come earlier I might not have been here to tell the tale!”
As Danny has said he began competitive wheelchair racing in the early 1980’s, in the days before special racing chairs or Paralympic Games.
He raced for 10 years, becoming known as one of the world’s finest foot-pushing wheelchair racers of the time before being selected for the Seoul Olympics in 1988 and the Barcelona Paralympic Games in 1992.
Twenty-nine Scottish athletes were selected for the GB team for the Paralympic Games in 1988. Over four thousand competitors from sixty-one nations took part and for the first time Paralympians accessed the same stadia and were supported by the same officials as the Olympians of 1988. I asked Danny:
What did it feel like to be selected to represent your country at the Seoul Olympics?
“Depends on what you mean by country, I gained a lot from my Scotland selection but didn’t fancy the British set up. It was an honour to be selected for GB, but the experience taught me from the organisation of the BPA it didn’t really inspire unity among the different disability groups that were represented.”
Richard Brickley MBE – President Disability Sport Fife told me “I was in Seoul in South Korea in 1988 with Danny. It was his finest hour and the last occasion when foot pushing wheelchair athletes competed at the Paralympic Games. Danny’s greatest rivals were Danish, Irish and American. The great Dane, as he was known, was the world champion. Danny was the most likely athlete to defeat him over 200 metres. Danny pushed forward and the Great Dane pushed backwards. The result of the race is irrelevant but my memory of these two amazing athletes at full speed never deviating from their lanes will remain with me forever. The crowd in the packed stadium in Seoul were on their feet. One of the great moments in Para Athletics.”
In each direction travelling for team GB must have been a gruelling journey for athletes and support staff alike. I asked Danny:
Danny, how did you manage the challenges of travelling to a foreign country?
“Quite well, but there were some of us that suffered a lot of jet lag including me. My body clock was all over the place. I was waking up at 3am thinking it was time to get up and dressed, then having to reverse the whole process. That’s just one of the issues I felt personally. Our wheelchairs and the stuff that we needed for training with came about two days after we arrived. I remember we were told not to eat anything like beef burgers because they might be cat or dog, and they told us if a policeman said stop, he would mean it by showing us his gun!”
What Danny hasn’t said is that for many of the team it was a demanding journey of moving and handling in the most confined of spaces. For all the team, Seoul was a steep learning curve. So, I asked Danny if he felt travelling had improved.
Do you think transport and services for people with disabilities has improved?
“Mainland Britain and Northern Ireland could do with some improvement particularly with public transport. It seems that public buildings are catching up, but some structures need access improvement even for some ambulant. I feel those with mental health issues and the visually impaired are most catered for but there is room for improvement here too.”
Danny does not believe in sitting back waiting for others to take action, either. In an unfortunate incident Danny got stuck in a church toilet in 2014. While struggling with his wheelchair he fell and got stuck, waiting 20 minutes before someone came to help.
He told Dundee’s Evening Telegraph in 2014, “I’ve never been one to sit around and wait for others to do things, so I decided to take the matter into my own hands.”
Staging a sponsored wheelchair run around Dundee, he raised more than £1,000 to hire an architect to draw up plans for new toilets. Despite dreadful weather on the day – pouring rain with thunder and lightning – unwavering, Danny completed his wheelchair marathon. He said he was “determined to do it regardless.”
What would be the top thing you would like to see improved in services for disability?
“More training in the caring side and more awareness what caring for people with disabilities requires, not treating everyone with the same brush remembering that disability comes with many varied and different caring needs.”
Danny believes that it’s not just able-bodied people who need to work to improve services, he went on to say:
“Disabled people need to learn that sometimes things will still be out of reach and able-bodied people are not at their beck & call.”
What are your most prominent challenges and how do you overcome them?
“Accepting the way that I need more support, sometimes it seems as if everything is being stripped away but I guess that’s goes for all people whether they’re disabled or not. This is where my faith makes me able to cope, as a Christian I find strength in knowing that Jesus is always with me and no matter what comes up I find peace when I lean on Him. Many times, in the hurly burly of life I don’t think that God hears me but in my heart of hearts I know that He’s just a prayer away. Someday, I know that I will know what my life has been all about.”
Having begun fundraising for new toilets for his church in 2014, Danny has gone on to raise funds for other charities, one being the Uphill Trust a small Scottish charity founded in January 2015 to support the development of Uphill Junior School, located in Uganda. I asked Danny,
I hear you still do some wheelchair racing, why is it important to you to do these charity races?
“Children. Especially children who don’t have much of a chance in life. In places like Uganda they have less of a chance because their dreams have been shattered before they dream them.”
He went on to correct me,
“I don’t race any more, I just do little marathons around Dundee accompanied by my wife Liz who has started doing them as well.”
“And knowing that no matter what comes up, no matter what’s been taken away, I will always have Jesus. Friends mean a lot, but I’d better put your Auntie, who just happens to be my wife Elizabeth”, and he continued, laughing, as he said “she bullies me continually (that’s not true, – well not all the time!)”
Danny Furey, an amazing gentleman whose friendliness is evident to all who meet him; an outstanding sportsman and a legend in disability sport whose contribution to Dundee, Scotland and Great Britain is significant. It hasn’t stopped there, of course, his impact is reaching across the world to Uganda and elsewhere. Richard Brickley told me this little snippet, which sums up uncle Danny so well (for he is my uncle!) “Danny will also be remembered as one of the first high performance Para athletes to compete in very fetching coloured tights. Now everybody does. A real trailblazer in so many ways.”
Thank you, Danny, for taking the time to let Domaine du Sourire and our readers have a little window into your life and to be inspired by you.
Domaine du Sourire is an accessible holiday complex owned by Jackie and Terry Grant. Their dream that people with disabilities can have a memorable holiday led them to Domaine du Sourire an inclusive place to cater for guests of all abilities. Jackie and Terry always enjoyed their many holidays across the world and they wanted to have a place that would give guests everything they felt a self-catering holiday complex should have.
“We have 4 gites, a heated swimming pool with a ramp for wheelchair access, games room, soft play room and sensory room. Our sensory garden is being given a makeover this year,” Jackie told me.
Visit our website for more detail of our wonderful holiday gites and to subscribe to receive notification of all our great blogs as they are published.
Woohoo, we survived our very first guests. A group booking filling all 4 of our gites. It was a challenging but wonderful experience which has inspired us right at the outset of our journey.
POPSY (parents of partially sighted youngsters) is a support group for parents and carers of youngsters who are blind, have ‘special needs’ and with life-limiting conditions. It was set up by Tymandra, mum to Arwen Poppy who has a “special” syndrome ‘Warburg Micro Syndrome’, an extremely rare genetic condition (only 1 in 230 million people in the world diagnosed so far). Tymandra says she set up the group to keep herself positive and as an attempt to empower others who may feel out of control or are not sure what to do next and who feel alone.
Tymandra tirelessly works hard to support families of children who are blind, have special needs or life limiting conditions as well as fundraising for and organising day trips, activities and holidays for families.
5 families and 2 bus drivers arrived on a Saturday afternoon. The sun was shining so they wasted no time in offloading their belongings, which believe me were extensive, and headed straight for the cool azure blue shimmering waters of the newly installed “heated” pool.
As they were splashing around and having the time of their lives I received a phone call from my friend in the neighbouring region of Charente to say a storm was heading our way. No sooner had I set the phone down and headed towards the pool to let the newly arrived guests know when the storm suddenly appeared out of nowhere and it really hit us. Parasols blew into the water, pool toys upped and away. As our guests quickly scampered to the safety of their dry and comfortable gites we sorted the pool and things getting well and truly soaked but thankfully managed to avoid being struck by lightning.
What a start to their week and what a start to our new life in “sunny” France.
Thankfully the sun did return, and our guests had some lovely outings including Brantôme, Oradour-sur-Glane and Aubterre-sur-Dronne.
This group’s holiday and outings would not have been possible without the amazing JUMBALANCE a cross between a bus and ambulance. How the drivers, Brendan and Gary, managed to manoeuvre it along the, sometimes, very tight track roads in the Dordogne and through the tiny narrow streets of the French villages amazes me. This amazing bus provides accessibility to people who may not otherwise be able travel. Visit their website and support them in this amazing job they do. www.jumbulance.org.uk
A full programme was organised with morning and afternoon activities as well as evening entertainment, we even managed to bag a celebrity to do the disco nights, we were thankful to Dawn Camilli one of the Candy Stripes (@frenchcandies- look them up on Facebook and Instagram) singers who lent us the lights and DJ’d for us. On rainy mornings the group were able to take advantage of the “games” room which converted to an activity hall by day and a disco by night. Activities included an art workshop and craft making. We arranged patisserie tasting, fromage tasting and a wine taster as well as Cognac v Armagnac, Cidre v Calvados and Fizz v Champagne evenings. We included a walking trip to a local dairy with ice cream tasting.
Disco Divas dancing the night away
Cidre or Calvados? a little tasting
French knitting with granny wendy
Lets do this inside it’s a bit chilly
The last day for this group was truly amazing as it was a special boy’s 9th birthday, he enjoyed a pool party, then some scrummy goodies and a fabulous cake baked by our local boulangerie and finished off with a BBQ. The sun shone marvellously that day and a fantastic time was had by all.
POPSY – Domaine du Sourire just can’t wait until you’re back again next year!
POPSY is a small charity that deserves support –you can help by sponsoring- sponsor forms are available.
Or if you would like to make a donation, please get in touch: email@example.com or via Facebook.
Check out their website at www.popsy.org.uk
At Domaine du Sourire we aim to make your holiday as fun and as welcoming as possible. We can work with you to arrange packages for groups. Whether your group booking is for a holiday or retreat we endeavour to be as accommodating as possible to suit your needs. We can accommodate creative writing, artists, wellbeing, business or church/spiritual groups as well as groups of family or friends just wanting a great holiday together. Whatever your needs are chat to us and we can work out a programme of activity with you. And if you are not a group don’t worry each Gite is self-contained; individuals and families, alike, are welcome.
Holidays should be wonderful experiences and going on holiday with a group be it family, friends or yet to meet friends is always a great idea.
If you are planning a holiday, retreat or business get together for a large group, Domaine du Sourire may be just the place to suit your needs. Of course, we offer the same as so many “gites” in this area such as stunning views, great location to get around the area from with so much to see and do, our accommodation is clean and comfortable with all the mod cons including free Wi-Fi and the hosts/owners live on site.
So, what is so unique about Domaine du Sourire that you want to choose it for your group holiday?
We have 4 gites, which can accommodate up to 24 people in total, situated together in our enclosed and extensive grounds. The advantage of Gite accommodation is you can have individual time too if the activities of the group all gets a bit much! 3 of our 4 gites are wheelchair accessible with downstairs bedrooms and wet-rooms making it accessible for all so no one needs to be excluded.
The layout of our site features a central courtyard with a large outdoor dining or meeting area; all 4 gites are situated around the courtyard with easy access. France, and the Dordogne, is known for its sunshine but we do occasionally get rain and if you have group activities planned then fear not, at Domaine du Sourire we have a room, which is wheelchair accessible, for your group’s activities should the weather make outdoors unpleasant! There a few smaller rooms which can on request be adapted to meet the needs of your group’s programme.
Relax on the sun loungers or cool down on those hot sunny days, splash and play in the large heated pool which has a ramp making it wheelchair accessible should that be required. The pool is enclosed and gated for safety and is set to the back of the gites in our extensive and beautiful grounds. For the more energetic we have a selection of bicycles available for you to take in the wonderful scenery surrounding you at Domaine du Sourire.
We live on site and it is our passion to ensure you have a great holiday or retreat and we know that planning for a group can be a daunting task! At Domaine du Sourire we know every group is different and the needs of groups vary so we would recommend you chat to us about your needs and we will endeavour to find a way to meet these where possible or if we can help in planning your itinerary with you we would only be glad to do so.
Recently we had a group of families come to stay for a week and as they travelled by bus it made getting the breakfast fresh croissants and pain au chocolat impossible for them. We organised a bread run to the local boulangerie every day, we also took shopping lists and did their shopping at the nearest supermarket. The lanes around our property are very narrow and it made it impossible for their bus to have room to park so we agreed on their behalf with the Mairie of our commune for the bus to be parked safely in the village.
All that is left is for you to book and enjoy! Going on a group holiday, retreat or get together is so much fun so go with the flow, let us take the strain while you enjoy each other’s company.
What sets Domaine du Sourire apart from the rest? The passion and commitment to ensure you have the best experience for every member of the group. Jackie, the owner of Domaine du Sourire, has said, “You are what makes us unique, each and every guest.”