This is unashamedly a shout out to an organization that has given Pearl something I did not think was achievable, an age appropriate social life.
When my eldest two were little they did loads, Tumble Tots, Clubs, you name it they went.Admittedly this was often as much for my mental health as theirs, I needed to have a routine and get out of the house.
I tried to parent Pearl in the same way, we joined the local Gym Babes class, and went to mums and tots play groups.After her peers all graduated to Tumble Tots and it became obvious that she as the only two old lying on a baby mat in mums and tots, we quietly withdrew.
Besides I did not have any trouble filling my diary, I was constantly at the hospital, the CDC and hydrotherapy.
Then Pearl started school, all this stopped.She was too tired after a day concentrating and cajoling her body into sitting. Also her friends lived over three counties,so she didn’t see school friends often.
It’s a lonely place worrying about your Childs loneliness,and a sad place reflecting that all your twelve year olds friends are adults.
There was a local group that looked at activities for all, but it was on too late (6.30pm!A day of using your unruly muscles to stay upright meant Pearl was in PJs but then!)and also the other children were more physically able
So it was off limits.
Then Peal moved schools resulting in two things.Her school day was shorter, she was less tired and I was more than willing to fill up the time before bed.
Initially we attended a holiday session of Sports Club.I stayed with Pearl and we tried, volleyball, hockey, archery, skittles, and football There were lots of helpers and I was told that Pearl could be left while we went updaters for coffee.It took me a good few weeks to trust these people, but as I saw Pearl became comfortable, I felt braver.
From there she got onto a one to one Alpha Swim, again more physically disabled than her peers, the teachers made the necessary adjustments and she loved it.
But then! The highlight of her week!
Fun 4 All! A huge play centre with massive play frames and slides. I was well familiar with it as it was started by a fellow “ballet mum” when my middle child was small.We’d had parties and regular play dates there.But it was huge noisy, with impossible climbing frames and was therefore not for Pearl
Father of Pearl shows us how it’s done!
Pearl could not manage the play frames alone, she would need time to be talked through the movements she needed to make, it would be time consuming and need quiet and patience from other users.Have you ever been to soft play?Patience and queuing are not the strong suite of most of the clients who attend!
BUT every fortnight this same play centre is open to Pearl and all the other children in the local area who have additional needs. No one else.
It’s chaos! But extremely well controlled chaos, and importantly about an third of the usual number of children attend.
It is also staffed by volunteers and Cheshire East employees who work for Everybody Leisure, our local initiative to encourage activity for all. All. No matter what needs or challenges.
It is led by the wonderful Andy, who coordinates the programme,and who has a pretty astute view of all the kids abilities. It was also Andy who has organized through the scheme for Pearl to attend the weekly swimming lessons.
On the first week Pearl was extremely nervy, worried about noise and needing me to accompany her every step. She attempted going on the climbing frame, but was overcome by fear and came back down rapidly.She was by far the most physically and cognitively challenged there-and I wondered if I’d made an error taking her..
What a difference a term makes!
“Go.Car.Fun4All”-determinedly jabbed out on her communication book.
She flies through the gate to get in, hardly looking back, and, accompanied by staff can make it right to the top of the frame, and down the giant slide.
The most normal, and age appropriate social events in Pearl’s life, events that I never thought would be possible are all happening regularly thanks to Andy and his team.
It is simply marvelous and shows that is possible to make local services inclusive to everyone.
Thank you to Andy and all the wonderful workers, and thank you to the LA for recognizing this is effective and excellent service. Long may it continue.It has improved Pearl’s physical abilities and coordination, social interaction and it is surely good for her general health.
if you have local opportunities like this, and are concerned that your child won’t manage,give it a go-you might be surprised-I know we are!