I CAN gave me and my son the confidence to deal with any challenge life throws at us
Helen Haley ran the Manchester Half-Marathon in 2018 for I CAN. We caught up with Helen about why she decided to undertake this challenge and the impact that I CAN had on her son Finn who has a speech, language and communication need (SLCN). You can visit Helen’s JustGiving page and donate to her campaign here!
What was the inspiration behind your decision to run the Manchester Half-Marathon?
God knows, a bit of madness probably! Joking aside, my son Finn has struggled with his speech and language over the years so I just wanted to give something back to the people who had helped him, he’s 16 now. Looking back on how far he’s come, without the help we had from different charities, he wouldn’t be where he is now.
How are your preparations going? Do you plan to do more marathons or more sponsored runs?
I’m not planning to do another one! I can’t say I’m a natural but I’m getting there.
If I can do something to show my support, then I’m happy to do so. It’s an amazing day every year and I’m really excited about it.
Have you set any objectives or goals about how many donations you’d like to reach?
I set a target of £100 and I then raised it to £200. Last year, I doubled the amount of donations in one day so I’m just going to play it by ear for now!
Are you doing the half-marathon with any friends or is it more of a solo activity?
No, unfortunately. I was going to do it with my brother-in-law but he’s pulled out through injury so I’ll be doing it on my own this time.
How have you seen your son’s journey develop from when he was younger to where he is now?
At the beginning, I had no idea he had problems with his speech and language. I contacted I CAN when he was three and a half years old. It was what they told me that helped me get the support he needed from the start.
He originally used sign language to communicate but he doesn’t have to now as his speech and language have progressed so well.
It’s amazing to see how far he’s come but like everyone, he still has his good days and bad days!
When he was three, he had no way of communicating, all he could do was smile at people. Looking back, I used to think “he’s fine, he’s just struggling a bit” but now I know that he needed help.
He’s now got the confidence to get where he needs to be. He even has his own YouTube channel!
Why was I CAN the charity you wanted to support?
I’ll never forget how great I CAN were in helping me. They pointed me in the right direction.
Without them, he might have been sat in the back of a classroom, upset and alone. You never forget what people do for you.
How have you helped give him the support he needs from a mother’s perspective? Have you used tools or resources from I CAN or from different places to help him?
Yes, definitely! I wouldn’t have known where to start when it comes to learning sign language to help me communicate with my son. It was I CAN who put me on a course and organised paying for the costs.
I CAN gave me the confidence I needed to support him and be the Mum he needed me to be.
What’s the provision like at your son’s school and how do they help him with his everyday needs?
The school have been fantastic and he’s been supported all the way through it. It drops off a bit now he’s 16 as they want him to become more independent.
He’s at a mainstream school, he’s got five GCSEs and he’s done amazingly well.
When he was very young, I was worried he wouldn’t get any GCSEs as he couldn’t communicate with anybody but now he’s doing his A-Levels and I’m just so proud of him!
Do you think the help he’s been given up to this point has opened pathways for him and given him the potential to be what he wants to be in life?
Of course! I remember applying for a payment scheme that would help us cope better and we were initially rejected for it. It was I CAN who told me, ‘you’re going to need this’ so I went back and appealed it.
I had to go to court on my own but they wrote a report for me and helped get the decision overturned.
Without I CAN’s support, my son wouldn’t have got that support and he wouldn’t have the confidence he does now.
What one piece of advice would you give to parents or carers if they’re unsure about what to do if their child is struggling with their speech and language?
Someone picked up that he had a speech and language communication need when he was three and a half. I originally thought he had dyspraxia but it wasn’t until I CAN reached out that I began to see the full picture.
They recognised that he didn’t have dyspraxia but cerebral palsy instead. It was through listening to them that made all the difference as I wouldn’t have known where to go without them.
I think the best advice I could give is to find someone who’s an expert on the subject and listen to them. If I hadn’t have done that, I would have been in denial about the issue. I would have thought “they’re making it sound worse than it is” but they know what they’re talking about and they want to help you.
I will never forget what I CAN did for me. That initial support they gave me as a new Mum was amazing and they were spot on with everything. I want to say a massive thank you to them for all the work they did for me.
You can support Helen by visiting her JustGiving page here.