I knew when I started writing this blog that I wanted to write about Springboard, I just wasn’t sure how to put into words how truly magnificent they are.
I first found out about Springboard through a friend of my Aunty. At the time, Edith was very young and I pushed the thought of her needing specialist care or groups to the back of my mind. Fast forward a few months and it started to become apparent that I did’t feel comfortable taking Edith to ‘normal’ baby groups. I think this was mostly because I wasn’t emotionally prepared to answer all the questions that come with a child that has additional needs. I had no idea why Edith didn’t respond and behave like other children and the thought of crying in front of a group of strangers was a little too daunting.
In December 2014 we moved from Bristol to Pill to be closer to family. After we had settled in our new home, I can’t remember how, but I found out that Springboard hold a monthly gathering called Springboard for Families. I thought this was a good opportunity for me to go and speak with someone about what Springboard could offer. I walked into a room of a few strangers and was immediately met by smiles. I was offered a cup of tea and started to talk to one of the Family Support Workers, Becky. She was so lovely and it transpired that she used to work with another Aunty of mine so this was an excellent talking point. She told me of a stay and play session that Springboard hold on a Thursday at their Clevedon Centre; Stay and play, now this was something I recognised and the term seemed so normal. I decided there and then it was something that I wanted Edith and I to try.
At the time I worked on a Wednesday and a Thursday but after a bit of swapping around, a few months later I was able to attend my first stay and play with Edith. It was really nerve racking but I figured it would be much like the family group I had attended, it wasn’t….it was much better.
Stay and play lasted 2 hours. The last 15 minutes of the session was a chance to have a cup of tea and a chat with the other parents whilst the staff gave the children a snack. This was the first time I had ever spoken to other parents who had children with additional needs, it was finally a language I could understand. This was my favourite part of stay and play and I looked forward to it every week. Week by week I began to talk and interact more with the other parents. I found my niche within a small group of parents whose children had similar abilities to Edith and it was here that I finally began to feel less and less isolated.
As the weeks went by I discovered that Springboard offered sessions similar to that of a mainstream nursery. The sessions are morning or afternoon and the days offered are grouped by ability. I found that a Friday morning would be most suitable for Edith and learned that there would be an opportunity for Edith to start these in March (2016). At the time I was working a Monday and a Tuesday and I felt enormously guilty about more time away from Edith. This would be 3 hours on a Friday morning for me, just me. Somehow this didn’t seem fair or right. I met with the playroom leader, Becca, before her first session. Becca was lovely and so reassuring. I had previously filled out some registration forms covering a range of questions and we went through these in detail, focusing on Edith’s needs, likes and dislikes etc.
March came and so did Edith’s first session…alone.
Edith was assigned a key worker; someone I could liase with about Edith’s progress. Tracy was lovely and we gelled instantly. After a brief chat it was time to leave. I have to be honest and say that I have no idea what I did that morning but I don’t think I strayed far from Clevedon. When I collected Edith later that morning I could tell that she had enjoyed her time there and I looked forward to the following week.
After a few weeks we faced some unexpected news (to be detailed in another post), this was coupled with some other contributing factors and I made the very difficult decision to give up my job and become a full time carer for Edith. I loved my job but the change in our situation meant that Edith needed my undivided attention. I turned to Springboard in the hope of getting Edith in for another session after I had finished my job. As much as I loved her, I knew I would need some more time of my own. Edith began Tuesday afternoons in May (2016).
Edith now attends 3 sessions a week. I cannot tell you how much progress she has made since starting Springboard. They have bought out of her things I never imagined possible. At Springboard Edith has the opportunity to interact with the other children and make friends. They have hello and goodbye songs, a wonderful sensory area, a chance to get messy with paints and a trampoline for bouncing! Edith knows when she is going to Springboard and recognises our routine. As soon as we get into the car park she begins to get excited. She loves and has a good relationship with all of the staff.
Springboard were my lifeline. They offer an opportunity to parents like no other and through them I have made friends for life. Edith’s sessions give me the opportunity for a much needed break and time to be me, knowing that she is in the best and most experienced hands. The work they do is so important to so many families. They can offer advice about all manner of issues that come hand in hand with a child with additional needs, anything from the 75 page disability living allowance form to simply being a friendly ear when things just get too much.
Springboard would love to offer more but unfortunately due to lack of funding, they can’t. If anyone reading my post today would like to learn more about Springboard or make a donation, regular or one-off, please visit Springboard Opportunity Group