Harry is two years old. He has Down Syndrome which means that he has a learning disability and his muscles and limbs don’t work as well as other children’s. In addition, he has some hearing loss and will require glasses.
Harry’s mum found out about Our House through Facebook soon after Harry was born. At that time the Trustees were still fundraising to launch Our House. Since the centre has opened, Harry and his family generally attend the Saturday Club for children with Down Syndrome and physical disability. They have also hosted their own event at Our House for children with Down Syndrome from across the South East of England.
Harry’s mum says “Our House is a very warm, welcoming, relaxing environment where all of our family feel happy. The Saturday Club is a time we look forward to each month, as we know all of our children will be entertained and happy and we, as parents, can share with other families facing similar challenges. There is nothing else like Our House locally. If it didn’t exist, I wouldn’t have the network of support that I do today.”
Harry’s sisters love Our House too. They feel it caters for them as well as Harry.
“For us, as a family, it is important for us to keep the balance in our family so that not everything we do is about Harry. We worry about this for Harry’s twin, in particular as she spends a huge amount of time in therapy sessions with Harry, with no attention or focus on her. They all love to come to Our House and they are fully involved and accepted in any activities that run.”
Lucy is 9 years old and has Rett Syndrome, a neurological disorder. Lucy is profoundly disabled and reliant on others in all aspects of her life. She is a permanent wheelchair user.
Lucy’s mum, Dawn, first heard of Our House through its Founder, Jane Holmes. “Jane and I met at a joint fundraising event when she was trying to raise funds to realise her vision of having a place in Wokingham Borough where disabled children and their families could attend. It was fantastic to see her plans develop in to an actual building and then see it finally open its door for families to come and enjoy.”
Lucy has attended the monthly Saturday clubs and enjoyed all the different kinds of activities there. Her family have also come along to a really useful physiotherapy session, which ran during school holidays.
Dawn says, “At home, we refer to the Saturday Club as ‘L’s club’, in the hope that she grows to realise it’s a special place for her to go and just ‘be’ and enjoy. L also suffers with anxiety as part of her disorder, so having somewhere that she can feel safe and secure in is very important for her. We’re so lucky to have a facility like this available to us in the local area. Knowing that we can just come along and not have to worry about whether changing facilities will be suitable (as opposed to having to change her on a disabled toilet floor), not have to worry if she’s having an off day and needs a bit of space or quiet, and relax knowing most of those around us are in the same boat is a huge comfort and invaluable. The other important factor is that we are always made to feel so welcome and remembered whenever we come.”
Ten year old Jody has Down’s Syndrome which means she has learning difficulties and sometimes her speech is hard to understand. Her mum Sally heard about Our House through the local Down Syndrome support group.
Jody enjoys coming to Saturday Club where she can socialise with other children at the weekend in a safe, friendly environment where she feels comfortable and not judged by others. This is particularly important to Sally as Jody is an only child so opportunities to play with others can be hard to arrange outside of school.
Sally says “Our House is a very safe environment for Jody which means it is not stressful for me. It is somewhere I can relax and catch up with other parents in the knowledge that Jody is also having a good time. Our House is a good place to start if I need information for any aspect of special needs care. In fact Our House have started evening sessions with talks by specialists in different areas relevant to caring for a child with special needs which I think will be very useful. Our House is a tremendous resource for Wokingham as it caters for all disabilities and children of all ages. The building is very well equipped and the staff are caring and friendly.”
Oliver and his mum Louise started coming to Play Group and Saturday Clubs at Our House in 2015 after visiting the centre with another group. Oliver has a chromosomal disorder which results in learning disability and behavioural problems. He also has a physical disability. At Our House Play Group Oliver has been able to enjoy toys and sensory play in a relaxed environment where he is not judged, just included.
He beams when he arrives at Our House. Oliver’s mum Louise benefits from her time at the centre too, “Our House for me is a chance to spend time with my children (all of them) in a fun and relaxed environment. I’m always welcomed with a smile and a helping hand. I’ve come to Our House feeling at my lowest and left feeling so much brighter. The information, advice and friendly ear is invaluable. Sometimes it can feel so lonely having a child with additional needs and you don’t always fit in any more but at Our House everybody is made to feel welcome and important.”
Oliver’s brothers and sisters have also enjoyed visits to Our House, “They met a mermaid at the Summer Party, petted the therapy dog and celebrated at Christmas with a gift from Santa. They enjoy Our House with their brother, without the worry other social visits have resulted in disaster.”