On Fridays in a house in Wrexham, like in many other homes wherever there's a delivery store nearby, it's pizza night.
Pizza night is important to James, the 16 year old son of Debbie and Andrew and older brother to Anna. Not as important as the Foo Fighters but very important. Routine helps James. So does having his own den where he can have his own space to hang out on the computer or listen to music. Space away from humans, space where everything makes sense.
James has learning difficulties, Autism, ADHD and ODD. Severe and complex James has little speech, can become very frustrated and can have a 'meltdown' for no reason that's apparent and coming down can be a matter of hours, sometimes days.
Pizza helps, Friday is pizza day which mum and dad will be reminded of frequently with a visit from den by James.
'Pizza Hut, Cheesy Bites, black pop, white plates, man knock on door.' Black pop is coke and naturally pizza needs eating off white plates.
Debbie, James' mum, got in touch with Given To Live to see if we could find a way to get James to see Foo Fighters. Foo Fighters are his favourite band, Led Zep are up there too but the Foos are number one by a country mile. Mum and Dad both love the Foos as well which is where James gets it from.
The Foos also give a gift so precious to the whole family. A gift unquantifiable yet undeniable. James finds humans difficult, spending little time with even his family as he seeks the sanctuary of his den and music. He won't hang out with his sister, won't watch a movie with the family, sit down to a meal with them.
But if there is a Foo Fighters video on he will come and sit with the family. He will sit with his mum, dad and sister and hang out.
So as well as the music the Foos hold a very special and poignant place in the family's heart. Which is why an application was made for James to see The Foos. But after many hours of discussion we collectively had to accept it just wasn't possible. The people, the sounds, the sensory overload would be too much, could trigger a big reaction and this isn't worth the risk. We gifted a couple of pieces that Darren, our artist, had created and James may enjoy them. Or not because they don't look exactly like Dave Grohl. And things tend to need to be exact for James.
Mum also made an application for her 13 year old daughter to see Fall Out Boy. Anna is a young carer and not only supports within the family but also at the school where her and James go. Anna is a huge help and support to her mum and dad in so many ways including being to 'translate' some of what James says that mum and dad don't get. She's also fiercely protective of James which is how it should be but is also a lot to take on when your a kid.
We had no hesitation in saying yes to Anna seeing Fall Out Boy and she will see them in Birmingham on the sixth of October with her mum and dad. And also with her best friend Katie who is so much more than a friend to Anna. Katie is Anna's support and her home is a place Anna can go for a few hours or a couple of nights to get a break for herself and as she's also a big Fall Out Boy fan we really had to make sure she went along with Anna.
Andrew and Debbie are wonderful people and patient, loving, compassionate parents to James. Like so many parents who have a child with a disability of any nature they put themselves last, caring for the child, worrying they're doing enough for the sibling. They have maybe a night away from home a year, never two in a row. In fact there has been no time for themselves since before James was born sixteen years ago. That's just how it is for them and being a single income family there isn't the money for breaks away.
So Given To Live thought Andrew and Debbie might enjoy a break and spoiling. We had a look at the Foo Fighters tour dates and saw they're playing in the beautiful city of Berlin in November. After a few sneaky questions to find out if there was anyone who is up to looking after James for a couple of nights we know that a combination of grandma and Anna would have that covered.
And we let Debbie know she and Andrew are going to spend three nights in Berlin having a break, staying in a lovely hotel and seeing the Foo Fighters.
Leaving on Friday evening, having visited the family to give James his posters and let Anna know she was seeing Fall Out Boy, there were happy humans and a young man with complex difficulties and also as gentle a nature as you could wish for. He was also hungry as we heard him remind mum and dad...
'Pizza Hut, Cheesy Bites, black pop, white plates, man knock on door.'