ADDNI is setting up a charity shop/social enterprise that supports their work, supported by Awards for All

ADDNI has received a £10,000 grant from Big Lottery Fund’s Awards for All programme. It is part of a Big Lottery Fund grants roll out of £743,207 to 95 groups across Northern Ireland. Download full list of awards here.

ADDNI works with children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Northern Ireland and their families, providing therapeutic and recreational services and activities. They are using the grant to cover the set-up costs of a charity shop on the Lisburn Road which will support the group’s work and provide work experience opportunities for the young people they work with. Lisa Arthurs (30) whose son Thomas Connolly (11) has ADHD, volunteers full time in Attention to Detail, the new ADDNI charity shop, which is funded by the £10,000 Big Lottery Fund Awards for All grant.

Lisa Arthurs and her son Thomas Connolly, painting a picture in the ADDNI centre in Belfast.

When Thomas Connolly was a young child, his mum Lisa Arthurs knew he was different from other children. He constantly needed adult attention, would never sit still and relax, nor play with toys or with other children.

“We could see he wasn’t happy,” said Lisa. “He couldn’t even sleep. We didn’t know what was going on or how to deal with it. He needed a lot of our time, even when his little brother Matthew was a baby and we also had his older sister Gabrielle to look after.”

“He’d be awake until 3am every night and then back up again at 6am and we’d all have to dust ourselves off and do it all over again. It was draining for everyone.”

It wasn’t until Thomas went to primary school that teachers mentioned that they thought he might have ADHD and the family started the ball rolling to get Thomas tested.

“Thomas wasn’t coping academically because he has learning difficulties and he suffered from chronic sleep deprivation,” said Lisa. “The ADHD diagnosis was a blow at first. Even though we knew something was wrong, we kept telling ourselves, he’s just a hyper, mad little boy. But the diagnosis turned out to be a turning point. That’s when we knew he had a specific condition that needed to be dealt with.”

Thomas received treatment that helped him to cope, and doctors told his parents to get in touch with ADDNI. That’s when life started to change for the family.

Lisa and Thomas’s dad took parenting courses at ADDNI, taught by a psychologist specialising in ADHD. They learned techniques for dealing with Thomas’ condition. Thomas’s brother Matthew and sister Gabrielle have been to a siblings course at the centre and were able to gain an understanding about Thomas.

“Now, we know to get down to his level and talk to him in a calm voice. We use rewards systems. We make sure he gets plenty of exercise in the daytime, and have established a bedtime routine. Matthew and Gabrielle were able to meet and support other ADHD siblings, and they understand better now why their brother gets so much time and attention. It has all changed life for the family so much. We started to see Thomas in a different light as we understood the ADHD more.”

“Thomas is so creative and has a great heart. He is a charmer and knows how to pull at your heartstrings. We used to see him as our sick little boy, but thanks to ADDNI’s support we don’t see it like that anymore.

Lisa said she enjoys volunteering in the shop five days a week, as it gives her the opportunity to give something back to the organisation.

“ADDNI have been absolutely amazing for us,” said Lisa. “If we didn’t have the ADDNI centre, there would be no support for us whatsoever. Years ago Thomas would just have been seen as a ‘bad kid.’ But thanks to the centre, and all of their help, we understand his condition and know how to help him,” she said.

“We have photos of the kids involved in ADDNI all over the walls of the charity shop, so that people can see where the money is going. And over-looking the sales counter is a photo of the golden boy himself, Thomas.”

Sarah Salters, CEO of ADDNI, said: “The Attention to Detail shop is a completely new enterprise for us and a great way to raise additional funds to support the ADDNI centre. It also gives our young people opportunities for work experience which raises their confidence, and it gets them out in public where they can talk to people about the condition and change public perception of it.”

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