A woman and a man are holding onto a floating netted bag in a blue swimming pool and smiling mouths open at the camera.

Tom’s story

On his first of several trips to Calvert Exmoor, guest Tom overcame his nerves to try new activities alongside sessions he knows and loves.

Tom visited with his mum (Jane) and enabler (Sarah) in 2023

After their stay, Jane very kindly took the time to tell us more about Tom and their visit to Calvert Exmoor.

In Jane’s own words…

A man is sitting looking away from the camera, wearing a hat and coat, with his leg crossed across the other. He is holding a leaflet and on his arm, is a woman's arm, as she leans her head on his shoulder looking up at him in the chair next to him.

About Tom

"Tom (aged 23 at the time of the visit) has Angelman’s Syndrome, a rare genetic condition that affects the nervous system and causes severe physical and learning difficulties.

He is also on the autistic spectrum and is non-verbal apart from a few monosyllabic words, though he communicates to a certain extent through the use of Makaton/PECS symbols and signing."
A man wearing a blue coat and a hat is pulling a suitcase behind him across a path towards the camera. He is smiling at the camera.

Why Calvert?

"I was looking for somewhere for Tom to start going on short breaks and initially heard about Calvert Exmoor from CEDA (Community Equality Disability Action) in Exeter, who have been providing support for Tom for the past 5 years.

CEDA have accompanied many of their service users to Calvert Exmoor over the years so knew they could cater for Tom’s needs. Tom, therefore, went on his very first short break with Sarah from CEDA, and myself."
Two guests at Calvert Exmoor are walking down a path through woodlands wearing bike helmets. One guest has his arm resting on the arm of the woman next to him as they are walking.

Settling in…

"My presence was essentially to reassure Tom and help him relax on his first weekend on-site, as next time he will be going with enablers only (this will be a massive step for him!).

Even though Tom loves to be around other people, he can suffer from extreme anxiety in new places or situations, therefore we needed to do everything possible to help him settle and make the weekend a positive experience.

Sarah’s presence was also important as she is someone Tom already knows and trusts … as it happens, they had so much fun together during the weekend, a real bond was created between them, which was lovely to see!"
A group of guests on accessible bikes are cycling along a muddy path. The guest at the front has his hands in the air and a big smile on his face, other guests behind are smiling and waving too.

Good times…

"The stunning setting, wonderful facilities and activities on offer are truly amazing and Tom did have a fantastic time, as did we all.

As a parent, there was something else that struck me and that took me unawares: how lovely it was to take Tom somewhere where I didn’t have to worry about him being different!"
A guest is standing on a pile of crates in a harness, helmet and has his mouth open in delight, with his hands positioned as if clapping.

Differences disappear at Calvert…

"It has to be said, Tom never goes unnoticed in public: his physique accompanied by everything about him, from the way he walks to the noises he makes, to certain behaviours, make him stand out. Someone once described his arrival in a room as a “joyful tidal wave,” which I think sums things up quite nicely!

However, this means that taking Tom anywhere has to be well planned and even when it is, something may still occur that will make me wish we hadn’t bothered! People in general are very kind and understanding when they come face-to-face with Tom, but as a parent I feel constantly on alert in public places, as I can never be sure what will happen and how people will react."
A man is sitting in the Zipwire harness and being pulled uphill with a taught yellow rope extending away from him. He has his mouth open in a wide smile and his legs extended away from him.

In short…

"So for me, the most wonderful thing of all at Calvert was to find ourselves somewhere we felt truly welcome and where I could relax with Tom without worrying about offending, shocking or providing entertainment for others!

Tom will be going back to Calvert Exmoor soon on a short break with CEDA, but I also plan to take him back there myself on a family holiday in the near future."

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