Hi, thanks for reading our story.
My name is Catherine and I am the Fundraiser here at the Peter Pan Centre but I am also mum to Eddie, a Peter Pan graduate who had an amazing start in life thanks to four years of care and support from the Peter Pan team. I have the best job in the world, helping to spread the word about the fantastic support available to disabled children across North Staffordshire and South Cheshire from this gem of a charity.
Having a baby should be one of the happiest times of your life.
But when my long-awaited and longed-for baby was born with a serious disability, the happiness I felt was overwhelmed by fear and anxiety. I hadn’t expected this. I wasn’t ready for this. I knew nothing about children with disabilities. Eddie was born in 2013 with Down’s syndrome. He spent 3 weeks in neonatal intensive care.
I wasn’t ready for that.
Eddie came home for the first time at 3 weeks old. The very next day we had to be at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital to discuss surgery to remove bilateral congenital cataracts causing his near-blindness. Following surgery at 10 weeks old, Eddie then had to wear daily disposable contact lenses for 6 months to correct his vision. Imagine having to put contact lenses in a baby every day?
I wasn’t ready for that.
The next day, our first proper day at home as a family, we were visited by a Physiotherapist and a Speech and Language Therapist. It felt like an intrusion. I wasn’t ready for that. Maternity leave was a whirlwind of medical appointments, hospital visits and ambulances. Other services became involved in Eddie’s care, services I had never known existed like Occupational Therapy and Portage.
I wasn’t ready for that.
To try and keep some semblance of normality, Eddie and I ventured out to baby groups. We were welcomed with open arms by other parents but I couldn’t help but notice the increasing differences between my child and theirs. I couldn’t join in with conversations about first smiles, first babbles, first words, first foods, first steps. Eddie wasn’t developing like other people’s children.
I wasn’t coping.
Then we found the Peter Pan Centre.
At the Peter Pan Centre I realised that it was OK that Eddie wasn’t developing like other children. That he’d get there in his own time. And I learnt that it’s OK to be not OK with that sometimes. And that there are tea, biscuits, tissues and a shoulder to cry on there if you need it.
At the Peter Pan Centre I met other families going through similar journeys to us. We made a new support network and friends for life. Friends who ‘get it’ and who have ‘been there’ and who are with us every step of the way on this journey none of us were expecting.
At the Peter Pan Centre I learnt how to help Eddie learn and communicate. Eddie developed an amazing bond with his keyworker Michelle, whose care, patience and expertise allowed him to flourish.
The team helped us navigate the overwhelming and complex work of Special Educational Needs, advocating for us at meetings, offering advice, leading on Eddie’s Education, Health and Care Plan and securing our school of choice.
And in the middle of all this was a happy, content little boy who didn’t know all this was going on around him, for this was his life. And Eddie loves life! Eddie was born ready and Peter Pan gave him the best start in life. And they helped me get ready for my new life as mum to a child with a profound and complex learning disability.
Founded in 1969, as a playgroup for children with disabilities, and unique across Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire and Cheshire, no other charity does what we do in our region.
We give children aged 0-5 with special needs the best start in life.
Our specialist learning through play sessions help 0-5 year-olds with special needs to learn new skills, gain confidence and make friends, positively impacting them now and for the rest of their lives.
We also support our families to meet their children’s needs in the home and provide them with respite. This year we have supported 80 local children with a range of conditions including Down’s syndrome, autism and complex medical needs. Without us, some of our children have no support at all. For some children, their session at our Centre may be the only interaction they have with their peers each week.
Children attend one or two, 2-and-a-half hour, morning or afternoon sessions each week, usually on a 1-1 care basis, and enjoy a program of activities tailored to their individual needs. Children grow in self-esteem and confidence, improve their verbal and non-verbal communication skills and develop their core life skills like self-feeding and tooth brushing.
Children also benefit from new experiences. We have recently introduced pet therapy and hydrotherapy to our termly program of activities.
We are recognised as a local centre of excellence for our work supporting children with special needs. Our centre was purpose built for us and our fantastic early years team has over 80 years experience between them.
All children deserve the best start in life but it can be difficult for those born with disabilities to get the help they need.
Did you know that there is no statutory support for pre-school education for disabled children? Yet research shows that providing effective early help (the support given to a family when a problem first emerges) is the best way to improve their lives and life outcomes.
By supporting our campaign, your donation will give much-needed support to disabled children and their families by helping to fund our specialist play therapy sessions.
We have recently expanded our service and £4400 will allow us to deliver our new specialist play therapy sessions aimed solely for children with a diagnosis or concerns of autistic spectrum condition, for two months.