December 20, 2010

A parent’s speech at the 2010 AGM

Talk from Playskill AGM 2010 by Sarah Cicco, Parent

I am delighted to have the opportunity to publicly show my appreciation for Playskill.

My daughter Anna started Playskill when she was one year old. Playskill has seen her through her crawling, walking and early communication milestones. Anna had a break to allow other children on the waiting list to experience Playskill, and now at 2 ½ she is back again, having lots of fun and learning to climb, catch, talk, self-feed and gain some independence.

Anna has Down Syndrome, and has hearing and visual impairments. Down Syndrome is a genetic condition, and presents itself as a physical and learning disability. It brings challenges and developmental delays to Anna’s gross and fine motor skills, alongside her cognition and speech.

We see a lot of healthcare and education professionals – publicly, charitably and privately funded – and hold Playskill in the highest esteem.

Playskill is unique. I am going to run through the Top 20 reasons why it is unique and why we feel it provides such an exceptional service:

1. 3 therapies (Physiotherapy; Occupational therapy; Speech therapy) in 1 venue, every week make life so easy. Nowhere else can you find this. Accessing therapies usually involves travelling to numerous hospitals, clinics and centres on varying days and times; with the services usually offered infrequently.
2. Playskill sees the child as a ‘whole’ child. Each therapist consults with the other to get a complete picture of the child’s abilities and preferences, and can make connections that would otherwise go by unnoticed.
3. Not only are there the three main therapies on offer, but visiting specialists and professionals also provide group and 1:1 advice on areas covering: Health, Education, General development, Finance, Disability rights.
4. Playskill is fully accessible – even siblings are welcomed. The sessions are fun and well paced, with plenty of singing and signing thrown in too.
5. There is no judgement made of the child or parent. This is rarely the case in classes for typically developing children where both the child and parent can feel isolated, with the need to constantly apologise and explain why their child is different.
6. There are no politics involved. Playskill therapists are impartial and free to give advice that is in the child’s interests, without consideration of anyone’s political agenda or budgetary aims.
7. Playskill does not demand any commitment outside of the weekly sessions, and is not conditional on the completion of unrealistic homework for the child and parent to achieve.
8. The service is flexible, is tailored to the child’s needs, and is not tied to any one specific programme or method of learning.
9. The support offered to the parents is also exceptional. Problems can be shared, stresses eased and help is always on hand.
10. Great advice is always given. Seemingly limitless amounts of time are spent listening to and understanding parental concerns and problem solving.
11. Each therapist and supporting staff are very professional and highly experienced both in terms of the therapies and of parenting children with additional needs.
12. Consistency within the staff/volunteer group, the venue and the session format help develop group and individual relationships, and allow the children to settle quickly and easily in a familiar setting.
13. There is an incredibly high ratio of adult to child during the session, which is crucial where child safety is concerned – especially if your child’s favourite pastime is eating their hearing aids!
14. Playskill has arranged a free service with the onsite toy library. Expensive and hard to get hold of developmental toys are freely accessible and easily returnable at another session.
15. There are no comparisons made. Each child’s development and achievement of milestones are celebrated without comparison or competition with others.
16. There is a great sense of community. Mothers, staff and volunteers freely share ideas, pass on tips and signpost each other to services.
17. Playskill has a very relaxing atmosphere. There is no apologising or explaining, it offers a real break time for the children and the parents, and there is no tidying up after messy play!
18. Individual goals are set and monitored for each child. Parents are really listened to during goal setting, and staff and parents work collaboratively in helping the child achieve their best.
19. Through the very kind sponsorship of people, such as Cedric and Peter, extra bonuses are offered, including mum’s pampering days and evenings out; family outings and children’s parties and gifts.
20. With regard to other therapists/professionals, unfortunately within the statutory services, although some ‘gems’ are to be found, they are often over-subscribed and bound by politics and red tape, whilst others have been worn down by workload and other pressures, and still others who, quite frankly, are in the wrong job. The enthusiasm and commitment of Playskill staff and volunteers are unsurpassed and very refreshing.

I could easily list a further 20 reasons for why Playskill is so wonderful and why I feel so privileged to be part of it , but to sum it all up I would say that Playskill makes things easy. You can really believe that you are doing your absolute best for your child.
Both Anna and I have greatly benefited from the Playskill experience, and my only wish would be for Playskill sessions to be available to every child with a disability or additional need.

Thank you for listening and I hope you will join me in showing appreciation for everyone involved in Playskill.
Thank you to the: Trustees, Staff, Volunteers, Fundraisers and Sponsors.