Hannah*, from Albania, was three years old when she was diagnosed with autism. Her parents’ arranged marriage broke down under the pressure and Hannah and her mother, Martha*, were sent to another country for Martha to contract a second marriage. But this was a sham and Martha was forced into prostitution. Eventually they managed to escape and found safety in the UK.
Martha reported Hannah’s autism on referral to Medaille Trust and our team have adapted and provided for her additional needs ever since, in close partnership with social services. The trauma Hannah had suffered clearly made her symptoms worse. Upon arrival, Hannah struggled with concentration, would climb on Martha or the furniture and often ran away – she hit her head against walls and would make a high pitched squealing noise to express herself, rather than using words.
To add another complication, Martha was pregnant. She was very anxious about how she would manage her pregnancy, labour and new-born baby while also attending to Hannah’s needs. This was particularly problematic as Hannah’s condition meant that she could only attend school initially for one hour a day, which was increased gradually to two hours and 15 minutes.
Throughout the pregnancy, during labour and after the birth, Medaille Trust staff ensured that Hannah was monitored and safe around the project. They provided support around the clock, including during the night while Martha was in hospital and during the day, to occupy Hannah. They took her on trips to entertain her, dropped and collected her from school and took her to visit her mum and new baby sister in hospital.
In the later stages of pregnancy, social services had offered a foster placement for Hannah. But, as this was around one hour away from our safe house, Martha was extremely panicky about the separation and did not want to accept the offers. Instead, social services provided additional support for Medaille Trust to enable the family to stay together and they remain at our safe house.
*not their real names