Henry was diagnosed with Type 2 SMA (spinal muscular atrophy) at 13 months. This causes muscle weakness which prevents him from being able to crawl, stand or walk. I could see that Henry was finding the various baby and toddler groups less engaging and harder to manage, while his peers appeared to be getting on well – exploring their world, discovering new experiences and socialising with others. This is when I decided to find somewhere more suited to Henry’s needs.
It was very easy to get involved; a quick phone call, a few chatty emails and we were in! I contacted the school in October and we began early November. We have not looked back since.
The school itself is welcoming, comfortable and full of excellent equipment. But it’s the staff and time that you spend there that really make it worthwhile. The staff are caring, patient and very well qualified – and most have personal experience of children with additional needs. They were quick to understand Henry as an individual – recognising his strengths and weaknesses and noticing when he had achieved. However big or small, successes are celebrated.
Sessions are carefully planned around a theme, and are adapted to the children’s needs when necessary (which is quite frequently, as they’re all different!). There is structure and repetition but with plenty of variety and appropriate pace. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed, where ‘anything goes’; you can join in or sit and watch. The clear aim throughout is to support all forms of development – cognitive, physical, social and emotional – but in a fun and interactive way. Henry particularly enjoys the use of props and equipment whilst singing songs. He loves getting creative with glue, paint, jelly and the many other materials offered his way!
Henry attends one session a week, with either myself, his Granny, or both of us. A lot of the time we both go, because we enjoy it so much! There is an open-door policy where anyone within Henry’s care network is welcome to come along. The school also offer other experiences for the whole family. Recently, many of us gathered together to take our children and their siblings to the theatre to see the Christmas pantomime.
In the short time that we have been part of the group, Henry has benefited so much already. His confidence has grown, both emotionally in himself and towards other adults and children. He clearly enjoys the social interaction and being part of a group where he feels safe and comfortable. Henry is learning how to push himself to his physical potential through different exercises and stretching. He is learning about language and communication. He is developing skills which will help him to cope in the world around him.
The school correspond with other professionals involved in Henry’s life outside the school to ensure that they are meeting his specific needs. Together, we set physical and cognitive targets for him to aim for each term.
This is a professional service, aimed at helping Henry in as many ways as possible. To me, it feels supportive, relaxed and personal… to Henry, it’s really good fun! It’s a chance to bond and spend quality, happy time together. Above all, it’s a great comfort to know that you are not alone.