Elevation Interviews Sparkle Sheffield

As part of Elevation’s continuous commitment to local charities, the team were delighted to collect Easter Eggs for Sparkle Sheffield, a Sheffield charity which looks to benefit children and young people with additional needs, and their families. Our Senior Consultant, Roxanna Gibb, met with Founder and CEO, Liesje Dusauzay, as well as 2 of their fantastic volunteers, Rachel and Steve.

 


Can you tell us a brief overview of Sparkle?

Leish; “Sparkle Sheffield is split into 5 different entities based on age. Sparkle Tots (0-5), Sparkle (5 -13), Sparkle-on (13-18), Aut-some (18-25), and then we have Twinkle which is a group for siblings. We put on different events that are as exclusive from the wider community as possible to empower our parents who find it very difficult to go out without feeling isolated. With our children being so unpredictable, we aren’t sure how they will behave sometimes so we give them a safe space where they are free from judgement.

 

What services and events do you provide?

Steve: “These events are exclusive to Sparkle members and include swimming sessions, crazy golf, trips to Jump Inc/cinema, etc.  We limit the sensory overloading for the children – for example, we have low lights and no music, which helps replace stress with enjoyment. It is the ‘everyday’ places where they would struggle to cope in public (for example loud and busy areas) - and our control of the sessions means we can give the kids a chance to do things they ‘normally’ don’t get a chance to do. We also have one of the hospitality suites at Sheffield Arena, which is kitted out with sensory equipment; an interactive floor, a blackout curtain, ear defenders, tents, and duvets. This allows the parents and their children to experience things like Disney On Ice in a safe space away from large crowds.

 

Talk me through some of the support you offer for parents and siblings?

Rachel: “We offer a sibling support group at the weekend, giving them a chance to meet up in a relaxed environment without the added scrutiny of having an autistic sibling with them. When you are a sibling of a child who requires extra support, a lot of the attention can get taken away from you – so this gives them some friends who understand what it's like to have an autistic sibling at home.

Leesh: For parents, we offer a group where they can chat openly in an empathetic group. It also gives them someone to turn to for support or advice (perhaps a referral for specialist help) if they are struggling with certain behaviours.

 

What are the greatest challenges you have as a charity?

Leesh: Funding and volunteers. Most of our volunteers are those we have helped, who now want to give back. I am the founder and CEO and have 3 autistic children. I started the charity as there was nowhere that broke down what it was like to have a child with autism - the only way to find out was to speak to people who have been through it.

Steve: I am a parent to 2 children both on the autistic spectrum. We have a 12-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl who are completely opposite. One is introverted and very anxious in social settings and one seeks out loud noises, crowds, and attention. We found Sparkle whilst looking for answers as to how we could help our children enjoy their lives more. With both kids being more settled due to that support, we wanted to give back to Sparkle and help other parents in a similar situation.

 

Are the children excited to see the easter bunny soon?

Leesh: Yes, the Easter bunny goes from house to house to deliver the Eggs! It started during covid when we couldn’t meet in large groups – and went down so well we had to continue!

Steve: The feedback alongside the photos/ videos we receive (including some great Ring doorbell videos) are so heart-warming to see – it really highlights what things like this mean to the children.

 

What are the future plans for the charity?

Leesh: First of all, we are expecting our King's Award which we will be collecting from Buckingham Palace. We are constantly looking to develop our services – and will soon be starting Sparkle, Learn and Go Wild. It will be like Cubs or Guides (the children can earn badges doing activities like horse riding, rock climbing, etc) - but done ‘our way’. We are also working with the Children's University so they can graduate and make it as exciting and engaging as possible - without being heavily structured - and with people who know how to best work with autistic children.

 

How can people help your charity?

Leesh: Donations are always welcome! If anyone is in Sheffield and has some time on their hands, please contact us if you would like to volunteer.

Rachel: I handle the marketing and social media presence in my spare time so it’s hard to be able to reach all the people we want to – so the more people can spread the word about us the better!

Leesh: If anyone is interested in volunteering or donating, please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and the information is also on our website www.sparklesheffield.co.uk.

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