NATIONAL disability charity Sense has announced a new early intervention service to support thousands of children with complex disabilities and their families in England.
The new service, called ‘Connect and Play’, will show families how to engage with their disabled children, provide them with a better understanding of their children’s needs and reduce isolation for these families, while providing fun experiences. The new service is backed by almost £1.3 million from the National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK. 5,000 children with complex disabilities aged 0-8 in England will benefit from the service by 2026, as well as their parents, carers and siblings.
Early intervention is key to making sure children with complex disabilities get the best start in life and are supported to communicate with their families, yet, currently, in many areas of the country this support simply does not exist.
Nine in ten (92 per cent) parents of children with complex disabilities say their child doesn’t get the same opportunities to play and develop as non-disabled children, with a similar number (95 per cent) saying they need help with understanding their child’s needs and learning how to engage them. More than half (55 per cent) reported their child was excluded from mainstream play groups.
Chloe Taylor-Roberts, 6, took part in the Connect and Play pilot in Birmingham. Chloe has autism and global developmental delay. Chloe’s mum Laura says attending the Sense-run sessions has improved Chloe’s confidence and communication with her family.
Laura Roberts said:
“Before finding Sense, Chloe had struggled in mainstream nurseries and everyone around me felt negative about her future. Chloe didn’t speak at all, and she wouldn’t acknowledge her youngest brother George’s existence.
“Since going to the Sense sessions, we’ve seen a massive change. She loves the space and all the staff are very encouraging. Chloe now says words, uses lots of signs to communicate and sings songs with words. The whole family understands her better and she plays with her brother George.
“Chloe never used to laugh but she does now. That’s a huge thing for our family. I think her speech will continue to develop and I can see all the positives about her future.”
Richard Kramer, Chief Executive of Sense, said:
“It’s vital that every parent of a child with complex disabilities knows how to play and connect with their child. Play has a central role in early physical, cognitive and emotional development, helping children to learn, socialise and communicate. It is also central to parent-child bonding and helps adults to communicate and develop their parental skills.
“We’ve seen from our Birmingham pilot how impactful this service is for improving the lives of disabled children and their families. Thanks to National Lottery players, this grant for Connect and Play means we can expand early intervention support for children and families across England and allow Sense to reach more families with this essential service.”
Sense is offering a range of free services through Connect and Play, including group sessions at their specialist play centres, one-to-one communication support from experts and an outdoor forest school. Families can self-refer to access the scheme, which will run across England in locations including London, Leeds and Bristol.
For more information on Connect and Play and to self-refer, please visit: https://www.sense.org.uk/our-services/support-for-children/free-play-services-for-children-with-complex-disabilities/.