Why on earth are we putting ourselves through this?
When TREK gave us our bikes, it was like taking a new-born home from the hospital for the first time – we all just sat and looked at them in the lounge thinking…what have I done? Little did we know how much we had to learn.
Our ambition as a team is to raise autism awareness and money for Puzzle Centre by tackling one of road cycling's toughest sportives, L'Etape Du Tour.
Our goal by July 19th 2015 is to have made more people aware of the needs of very young children with autism and to have raised funds to extend the services provided and already in great demand at Puzzle Centre.
Autism is a lifelong neurological condition, affecting 1 in 100 people in the UK. It affects a person’s ability to communicate, interact and process information and is often combined with sensory processing issues.
As with any disability, autism doesn't just affect the child, it also profoundly affects other family members and family life as a whole. Puzzle understand this and supports the well being of each family and trains parents to become advocates for their child, whilst also providing specialist early intervention for their child.
Puzzle Centre is a place of hope and joy for very young children and the families of children with autism. Help us to realise our ambition and make autism more widely understood and the Puzzle Centre's service more easily accessible.
Climbing a mountain is what parents of Autistic children have to do every day; they never know what is coming round the corner and the road is paved with difficulties. Having worked at Puzzle for the past seven years, I have seen the difference Puzzle can make to a child and their family in their effort to reach that summit, being able to communicate- It is a remarkable and unique place and I am truly privileged to work in such an environment.
One Tuesday, l walked into my place of work, Puzzle Centre, a charity which promotes early intervention for young children with autism and other communication difficulties. I am asked if l want to be involved in a bike ride to raise awareness of the work at Puzzle. I have first hand experiences of the journey the children and families make at Puzzle Centre, so giddy with excitement l said tell me more. "It is a stage of the Tour de France",came the reply. Of course, l thought this was a joke, so laughed. Low and behold they were serious. However, I still said "yes", fulfilling a desire to be involved in a significant event to raise the profile of an incredible charity. Comments such as " I am so glad we found Puzzle" and "it is such a relief to open the car door in the car park and know that whatever your child does, your aren't going to judged" will spur me on to the end!
Aside from the personal challenge before hitting the age 50 milestone, the opportunity to raise awareness of the Puzzle Centre is too good to miss. I know children who have attended and benefited enormously from the dedication of the team at Puzzle, and just being around these little kids in their learning environment and seeing how much energy and effort is put in by staff and children alike is enough to kick-start me into action. Being a parent of three young daughters who spend all their time chatting (and arguing) with each other, I cannot imagine how difficult life must be for families who have one or more autistic children and I am determined to help this amazing cause in any way, even if it involves wearing lycra and struggling up mountains!
I remember the first time I visited Puzzle; I was delighted, humbled and hopeful.
As a parent of two girls that are moderately deaf I know how important it is to get the right help and support for children with extra communication needs, particularly at preschool age when children are learning all about communicating with family, teachers and each other. Visiting Puzzle I was struck by the amazing support each individual child was given to enable them to communicate and develop to their full potential. When I was asked to participate in L'Etape for Puzzle I jumped at the chance to help raise awareness and for the challenge it brought. Ten years ago I ran the London Marathon, in the year I turned thirty and so it seemed fitting to step up to this challenge in my fortieth year. I must say though I had no idea what L'Etape was or just what I had signed up for, which in hindsight was probably a good thing!!!
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