Frustrated with the lack of support she’s received for her son Justin, 18, Cheryl Lingard is taking matters into her own hands, and hopes to open a place for other autistic children – and their parents – to find respite.
Lingard has garnered support from other families in her goal to open Safe Place for Our Unique Kids, but she still needs a physical space to host it.
“An old house, a place in need of some TLC, would be best,” Lingard said.
“The kids could learn to cook in the kitchen, learn how to garden in the backyard and be able to hang out with their own kind without having to worry about being picked on. A lot of these kids have to live most of their social life online, because in real life they’re bullied so often.”
Though she hasn’t received any offers for a house, Lingard said that several construction workers have volunteered to fix it up when she does, and an electronics store has offered to donate computers for the kids.
Lingard plans for the home to be open for parents to drop their children off whenever needed, while other parents volunteer to supervise, as options for special needs kids in Victoria are limited and expensive.
Lingard said that the $6,000 annual allowance she receives to cover Justin’s special needs hasn’t changed over the past 18 years, but it could go a lot further if she had an option like this.
“There’s nothing out here for these kids to get them motivated, to give them purpose in life,” she said. “The goodwill used to be able to do that, but with the cutbacks the special needs kids are falling through the cracks.”
Lingard said that other parents she’s spoken to are fully behind the idea, and Justin, who mentors younger autistics, is enthusiastic as well.
“He’s already coming up with ideas on stuff they can do with the little ones,” she said.
Lingard is still seeking donations for the Safe Place for Our Unique Kids project and can be reached at 250-590-9071.