“Lockdown is relentless, the days are long for both parents and children. Many families are experiencing financial difficulties as a result of lockdown, adding to the already challenging situation of caring for a child who needs extra support. These children usually thrive on routine so are finding the disruption especially hard to deal with.”
This week, we caught up with Michelle from the Surrey County Council Specialist Early Education Service (SEES), to find out how lockdown is impacting the families they support, and how Stripey Stork has been able to help.
Michelle’s team support families who have been referred with a child in the 0-5 age group. The families come from a variety of backgrounds e.g. children living with physical disabilities or illnesses, autism or multiple learning disabilities. Some of the children have life changing, or life limiting conditions.
The support that the team offers will depend on the family’s needs but before lockdown, they tended to visit the families once a week to hold a session in the family home. They would use games to help develop the children’s communication skills, and practice turn-taking and sharing. They also give practical and emotional support for parents – suggesting routines, timetables and visual flashcards they might like to use. The team will take siblings into consideration too, as they may feel overlooked when a child in the family needs extra support.
Michelle contacted us to ask for the resources to enable her to make 80 ‘play packs’ for the families that she is supporting during lockdown, including stationery, games, books and puzzles. We were pleased to be able to help, and included some items for siblings too, along with a selection of treats (gifted to us from Jurlique) for the Mums.
Michelle and the team have been dropping these on the doorsteps of the families they support and she says the response has been amazing.
One family being helped have a 3.5 year old boy with autism, a new baby and an older child who is in school. From a young age the boy struggled to communicate and he didn’t understand when mum needed to tend to the baby. There is no local family support and the practicalities of getting three children out of the house (before lockdown) meant that mum was feeling quite isolated anyway.
“R couldn’t believe his eyes when he woke up to a giant alphabet puzzle and chocolate – what more could a boy want?! And the extra gift for me is amazing. Hand cream is much needed after all our intense hand washing these days! Such a lovely gift to receive. Thank you to you and Stripey Stork for making this happen. I’m so very grateful.”
The activities have offered parents a lifeline – something to break up the monotony and to give parents resources so that they can keep supporting their child’s development through lockdown. It also gives them the opportunity to stay connected with their children through playing and reading with them.
Michelle explains that being able to access the resources that Stripey Stork distributes adds a more practical dimension to the support that she is able to give the families. Instead of taking the toys, books and games away at the end of each play session, a somewhat negative note to leave on, families can keep them and continue to benefit from them.
Without Stripey Stork, she says that the help that she is able to give families would look very different. Many of the families are not able to afford these resources and there simply wouldn’t be the funds to be able to provide them. While Michelle values this all year round, she stresses how incredibly important this has been during lockdown, enabling her to stay connected to families who are really up against the odds.
Michelle describes Stripey Stork as a ray of light, and we’re sure the families that she and the team support would say the same about her.
We’d like to thank Michelle for taking the time to feedback to us and shining a light on the importance of our COVID-19 Appeal for the local families who need our support at this difficult time.