Huge interest in new group for Harrogate parents of neurodiverse children
Last updated Sep 13, 2023
Photo of Ashlie Charleton with Harry and Emily Mitchell with Elsie.
Emily Mitchell (right) and Ashlie Charleton with their children.

More than 200 people have already signed up to a new Facebook group designed to help local parents with neurodiverse children, just days after it was set up by two Harrogate mothers. 

Emily Mitchell and Ashlie Charleton founded Sen Hub Harrogate – Parent Support to enable parents of children with special educational needs (SEN) to access information about SEN-friendly groups and classes, as well as support and advice about Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) and the Disability Living Allowance (DLA). 

Emily, whose daughter Elsie is autistic and non-verbal, told the Stray Ferret: 

“We want to make a beautiful little community where we can all help and support each other. It can be quite lonely sometimes as the parent of a neurodiverse child, so it’s really nice to be able to reach out and find other people who are in the same position and understand the challenges. Having that support is absolutely vital.  

“There are actually quite a lot of things going on now. We’ve got Neurodiverse Stay and Play on Thursday mornings at Oatlands Community Centre, Diverse Minds every second Tuesday after school, and Saturday afternoon sessions at Harrogate Gymnastics on Hornbeam Park – and there’s a lot more stuff starting up and becoming available. 

“It’s really nice to be able to find things that enable us to give our kids a ‘normal’ upbringing.” 

The pair started the group which can also be found on Instagram after being shocked by how little help parents received when their children were first diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder. 

Ashlie, whose son Harry is three-and-a-half, said: 

“They say there’s no handbook for raising a child, but having a neurodiverse child is a completely different ballgame.

“When I was going through the process of finding out my son was autistic, we were more or less left to it. We were given an online course to go on, which turned out to be a video call with about 50 other parents, but there was no opportunity to get individual feedback or ask questions personal to our children. We weren’t told anything about all the things, like DLA and EHCP, that can make life easier. We just didn’t want other parents to go through all that.”

In a report published in May this year, North Yorkshire Council estimated that since 2016 the number of children and young people with SEN and an EHCP has increased by more than 110% across the county.

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