A North Devon dad has launched an appeal to try and get his autistic daughter one of her most favourite things – a colourful fish tank.
Little Ella, aged four, cannot speak but loves to visit the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth with her parents, becoming calm and happy when she can watch her fishy friends cruising in their tanks.
Because of the distance, dad Ben Ryan and mum Danielle have set up a GoFundMe online appeal for £1,500 in the hope they can have their own aquarium at home to help Ella.
She attends Pathfield Special School in Barnstaple and cannot speak, at present only making ‘growling’ sounds, but watching the fish makes her happy and calms her.
Ben had to give up his job as a tanker driver for Gregory Distribution to help care for her and it means money is tight, but he said a home fish tank would be the next best thing.
He said: “I have never done a GoFundMe campaign before – if I was working I would have bought the fish tank myself.
“I agreed to do the story because I think it will bring more awareness of autism.”
Ella loves watching fish and has seen the Finding Nemo film many times. Ben said of their aquarium trips: “To see her little face light up and her little stiff-legged dance makes me so happy, because she is so happy.
“She has no friends as she can’t talk and her meltdowns can be really bad and upsetting. I think this fish tank will change her for the good.
“We have been to Plymouth aquarium but for us it’s a one-and-a-half hour drive and £54 to go in. It’s a long drive for Ella as she does not like going too far.
“I think it’s the fish and the movement of the fish – she has different growls for different feelings and there’s a growl for when she is happy. She always gets annoyed when it’s time to go!
“All this lockdown is a frustration for her – she does not understand why she can’t go to the shops. It’s their routine and she does not understand why the routine is different.”
The family is about halfway towards their goal – if you would like to make a donation, go to https://uk.gofundme.com/f/my-no-verbal-autistic-daughter .