How this East Yorkshire-based charity is Helping Children with Autism
Co-founder of East Yorkshire-based charity Aim Higher, Nicola Robinson reveals why her own experiences as a mum made her want to do more for children with autism
‘Our children were first diagnosed aged five and we subsequently became best friends, but we both felt like there was a lot missing for children with autism in the community,’ says Nicola. ‘I home-schooled my son for 18 months and in that time we rarely left the house because there weren’t any activities we felt we could get involved in. So we didn’t really engage with anybody and felt that was a real shame for other families too.
‘Gill and I set up Aim Higher with a view of going places and encouraging local companies to cater for children with special needs, so they can have the same experiences as other children.’
When her son studied in Hull, Nicola came across more problems because of the two separate local authorities: Hull and East Riding. Because they lived in East Riding, he wasn’t always able to access some services in Hull. To tackle that, Aim Higher made sure of their inclusivity, accepting both Hull- and East Riding-based families (as well as families from outside those immediate areas). ‘We’ll support anyone we can to recognise and respond to the needs of children,’ explains Nicola.
The charity has gone from strength to strength since 2016. ‘We recently took 162 people to Flamingo Land and it was just amazing,’ says Nicola. ‘We took three coaches and the children were brilliant,’ she goes on to say, revealing why such experiences are important for parents as well as their children. ‘For example, a single mum based in Hornsea has two children on the spectrum and doesn’t go out much, but when she came along with us, she had an amazing time and met another family and made friends. When you go somewhere in numbers, you feel a lot safer.’
When asked what she enjoys most about the work she does for her local community, Nicola is quick to respond: ‘Seeing the children do things for the first time and offering them a safe space to take on new experiences (such as rock climbing, canoeing and rafting),’ she says. ‘And seeing the children battling their fears and pushing down barriers.’
Running a small charity of course comes with its challenges, and Covid certainly took its toll on Aim Higher. However, Nicola reflects positively on the way they dealt with it. ‘Just like our children do on a daily basis, we had to overcome this barrier,’ she says. ‘We sent out mental health boxes, sensory boxes and Christmas boxes. We sat in our gardens and created these boxes ourselves then delivered them to the children we support.
‘We also battled for donations and funding. Because of everything that’s going on in the world, a lot of people don’t have money to spare for fundraising but we have been quite fortunate. We do lots of fundraising throughout the year because we believe parents like to give back. We did the Yorkshire Three Peaks and a lot of those involved were parents of children with autism keen to give back. We’re always looking for donations, whether that’s money or raffle prizes. We don’t have any paid staff; we’re all voluntary.’
Nicola is feeling optimistic as Aim Higher’s biggest event of the year approaches: the Aim Higher Anniversary Charity Ball at MKM Stadium on 24th September. There’ll be a live band, an auction, a raffle, a comedian and a three-course meal. ’It’s so nice to get everyone in a room to celebrate what we’ve achieved over the year,’ Nicola says.
‘Next year we are planning a music festival designed for those with special needs and disabilities. We have run smaller fun days but this will be on a much bigger scale! If it’s a success, we’re hoping to run it over two days with camping in years to come. The important thing is that it’s inclusive and recognises different needs.’
To help, donate or to find out more head to aimhigher-online.weebly.com.
Help tackle homelessness in Yorkshire this World Homeless Day (10th October) through these local fundraising events
THE BIG CALDERDALE SLEEPOUT
The Piece Hall, Halifax
Join Calderdale SmartMove for entertainment and a hot meal before bedding down to experience just one night of rough sleeping to raise funds. All money raised will go directly to support the homeless and vulnerable across Calderdale.
THE YORKSHIRE CHOCOLATE FESTIVAL
Magna Science and Adventure Centre, Rotherham
Bringing together live music, workshops and more than 70 stalls featuring all things chocolate, don’t miss this fantastic festival. Every penny raised will go to Roundabout, South Yorkshire’s youth homeless charity.
YORKSHIRE COAST 10K
Join Team SASH for this 10K course starting at the Scarborough SPA, heading round South Bay, past the harbour, round the headland and into North Bay. You’ll run through the Open Air Theatre then out to the Sea Life Centre before heading back to the SPA, all to help raise money for SASH – a youth homelessness charity that works across York, North and East Yorkshire.