Centre's pool aids disabled tot

24 March 2015

Channel 5 filming Aidan Smith and his dad in the Alan Shearer Centre hydro pool

The free use of the Alan Shearer Centre hydro pool helps provide a therapeutic lifeline for a four-year-old boy with a rare genetic disorder.

Aidan Smith was diagnosed with Cloves syndrome, a condition which affects only around 150 people worldwide, and has caused him brain damage and facial deformity. Following his diagnosis, and since June last year, Aidan has been coming weekly to Newcastle to use the Centre's hydrotherapy suite. Aidan was filmed using the pool during the making of a Channel 5 television programme documenting the course of Aidan's life over the last 18 months, due to be aired tonight (24 March).

"Aidan has no head control, but he loves the pool – he laughs, he splashes and kicks because he is supported by the water," says his mum, Vikki. "If we had to pay to use the facility we wouldn't be able to come so often. It helps us enormously."

The family's life dramatically changed when Aidan was born eight weeks prematurely on Boxing Day 2010. Dad, Karl, had to give up his job to care full time for Aidan and the family have had their Alnwick home specially adapted to support their youngest son's mobility needs.

Following a trip to Boston, USA, in January to see specialists in Cloves syndrome, the family's regular visit to the Alan Shearer Centre was being recorded as part of the documentary film entitled "Aidan: The Rarest Boy In the World."

Vikki says that the benefits of the using the Centre extend beyond promoting her son's wellbeing: "It's also the surroundings – the staff are lovely. In public you do get stared at a lot but here we get to meet other people in similar situations, which is good because when you have a child with a disability you can feel very alone."

Alan Shearer Centre manager, Amanda Head, said: "We have just completed a £100,000 refurbishment of the Centre's sensory rooms and this year we are redeveloping and extending the hydrotherapy suite.

"It's important to listen to the specific needs of our users and is great when we see families like Aidan's directly benefiting from the specialist facilities and activities we are able to offer here for free."

For more information about the Alan Shearer Centre's facilities for disabled children and adults, its specialist short breaks or residential accommodation, contact Amanda on 0191 267 8118 or email amanda.head@alanshearercentre.org.uk.