Family Support Workers
We are busy researching and learning new, up to date information and recommendations to prepare a new batch of workshops. Keep checking back here for updates.
We are keen to work with parents and families to run subject specific workshops based on your needs, what you need to know, what you would like some extra help with. Please let us know any ideas that you have for a workshop so we can get on it. Is there something that keeps coming up in conversations that you would like further details on? Maybe we can help - send us an email at email@example.com for further advice.
One of the most common things we get asked to help families with are Short Breaks. Here's some information -
What are Short Breaks?
Short Breaks is an additional service there to help support families of children with disabilities. This can be done in a number of ways from offering a day at a specialist children's centre or setting up a Direct Payments package so parents can have some respite and others, depending on your Local Authority.
After a referral has been made, families will be contacted directly to arrange a Family Assessment - this is simply to get information about the family, the needs of the children and current support available. A team will then look at the request and allocate a package accordingly.
To be clear, a Short Breaks package, is there for families to have a break and some down time, it is not there for families who need childcare to work.
How can I access Short Breaks?
Each Local Authority is different in their referral process.
Wokingham takes self referrals from families as well as referrals from schools.
Reading's Brighter Futures for Children takes self referrals from families as well as referrals from schools.
Bracknell Forest allows self referrals from families as well as referrals from schools.
We understand that sometimes it's all a bit much when it comes to filling in forms, knowing what it is you can ask for etc. - that is why we are here. Please feel free to get in touch if you would like help and support with this.
Concessionary Bus Passes
This is a hot topic for us at the moment - we have been supporting many of our 6th form pupils get their bus pass issued from their Local Authority.
Below, we have shared some information from the various councils regarding their passes / eligibility / how to apply - as ever, if this feels like a minefield, please get it touch - we can help!
Eligibility - All of the pupils at Addington have Learning Difficulties, that's our speciality. This falls into the Discretionary Eligibility criteria on the website. We can provide you with a statement of proof for this if needed, just ask. There are other criteria that many of our pupils fit into, holding a Blue Badge, being unable to drive for medical reasons, without speech and others.
There is an online application for this as well as a paper one, whichever works better for you.
The eligibility criteria is similar to that of Wokingham. Automatic entitlement to an Access card are around the rate of DLA / PIP awarded, holding a Blue Badge and having a visual impairment certificate.
Their non-automatic eligibility criteria still applies to the vast majority of pupils at Addington as it mentions being non-verbal, their condition means they are unable to drive a car and has a significant learning disability.
The application for this is online as many RBC residents have a log in, however, we do have a paper copy here at school should anyone prefer that.
We have found that for Bracknell bus passes, we have had to help in a different format recently. If you are a Bracknell resident, you will have an e+ login to apply for your pass.
If you are not able to do it this way, we recommend emailing the address on their website with your documents for the pass for them to assist that way. Bracknell's website states "Please note that disorders such as autism (unless severe) Asperger's syndrome, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and ADHD are not covered by the government's definition of a learning disability." - which is ok, however, this means that we have to state clearly "Learning Difficulties" - again, this is something we can help with.
If you haven't registered your child / children on the Learning Difficulties / Learning Disabilities register with their GP - this would be a great time to get this done as it will help with future applications.
Let’s talk about…. Sunflower Lanyards!
Believe it or not but the Sunflower Lanyards have been around since 2016! They were first introduced in Gatwick Airport to help staff identify passengers who may support, assistance or even just a little bit of extra time.
“…the Sunflower was chosen to reflect the idea of confidence, growth and strength shown by people with hidden disabilities, as well as introducing happiness and positivity.” (https://hiddendisabilitiesstore.com/our-history)
Nowadays, the lanyard is still a symbol of someone having a hidden disability, however, it may be more recognized as meaning “face mask exempt.” For whatever reason, you / your child / young person may be unable to follow current Covid-19 guidelines whether it is social distancing, face mask wearing etc. By the wearing of this lanyard, it is a friendly, clear, non-confrontational visual resource to everyone that there are hidden disabilities involved.
When the lanyard was first introduced, it was that, a lanyard. At https://hiddendisabilitiesstore.com/shop.html - you will find it is now so much more. There are bracelets, badges, stickers and more helpfully cards to hang on the lanyard. If you wish, you could purchase a card that simply states “face mask exempt” or “I have ADHD.” You can even get a fully personalized card that has a photo, name and the individual’s needs printed on.
You may be able to still get the lanyards in some supermarkets. If you would like to order them online, but are unsure of how to order, or what to order, that’s another reason to get in touch with us. We are here to help.
Bracknell Sensory Toy Library
This local service offers families the opportunity to hire some specialist sensory equipment that is either too expensive or you would like to try before you buy. There's nothing worse than spending a lot of money on something we think they would love or would help them and when it arrives - nothing, zero response. This is a wonderful service that can help. Please visit - www.bracknellsensorytoylibrary.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org
What is your Local Offer?
Your Local Offer is a "one stop shop" for all things SEN in your area for information and services. Your Local Offer is specific to your Local Authority. Your Local Authority is the council where you live, not necessarily where the school is.
Reading, Brighter Futures for Children - https://brighterfuturesforchildren.org/for-parents-carers/send/#local-offer
In the spotlight... Local SEN activities!
Places to go offering SEN specific sessions - (all correct at time of publishing November 2021, we would always recommend checking with the venue beforehand)
Red Kangaroo Trampoline Park - Sundays 4pm / Kanga Calm
Loddon Valley Leisure Centre - Sundays 8:30am / Soft play
Tadley Health and Fitness Centre Disability Swim - Mondays 10:30-11:30 / Wednesdays 6:45-7:45
Reading Rockets Basketball - Thursdays 4:00-5:00pm
Wokingham Waterside Centre - weekends, bi-weekly in Winter / weekly in Summer
Taijutsu with ASD Family Help
Hollywood Bowl, Bracknell 50% off for SEN plus carer - all day Mon/Tue/Wed, before 6pm Thu/Fri and between 9:00-11:00am in school holidays.
Local Attractions offering a free carer's pass with SEN and disability guests
Wellington Country Park
Coral Reef Waterworld
The Living Rainforest
The Lookout Discovery Centre
Cotswold Wildlife Park & Gardens
Chessington World of Adventures
SEN Specific Attractions and things to do -
Camp Mohawk, Wargrave
Thames Valley Adventure Playground, Taplow
Swings and Smiles, Thatcham
Our House, Wokingham
Challengers, various locations - inclusive play and care.
Thumbs Up Club, Woodley - Easter and Summer holiday club.
Local Help and support -
Parenting Special Children
ASD Family Help
We are sure that there are many more- you guys are the experts. If there's anything you think other parents like yourself should know, get in touch with us for it to be added.
These, and others, can be found within your Local Authorities "Local Offer."
CARDS CARDS CARDS
We know there are a few cards out there to help families with children with SEN and Disabilities access the concessions available. Here are examples of just a few -
The CAN Network is part of Wokingham Borough Council and is an information and support service for children and young people (up to age 25) and their families, who live in the Wokingham Borough.
The Max Card - https://mymaxcard.co.uk/
"The Max Card is the UK’s leading discount card for foster families and families of children with additional needs. Families can use their Max Card at venues across the UK to get free or discounted admission."
The CEA Card - https://www.ceacard.co.uk/
"The Card enables a disabled cinema guest to receive a complimentary ticket for someone to go with them when they visit a participating cinema.
The Card is also one way for cinemas to make sure they look after their disabled guests."
The Access Card - https://www.accesscard.org.uk/
"The Access Card (sometimes referred to as the CredAbility Card or a Nimbus Card) is a card like no other; we translate your disability / impairment into symbols that highlight the barriers you face and the reasonable adjustments you might need."
We understand that having so many options, all entitling you to something different and all requiring their own specific proof of eligibility, can be confusing. If you have any questions or concerns, please let us know and we can arrange to help.
Most importantly - looking after yourself!
"As parents and carers, particularly of children with special needs and disabilities, a lot of the time what we want or need comes last on our list of priorities. That if you were to ask us what we were we doing at the weekend? what is the last thing we bought? what do we need? - the chances are that the answers to those questions will revolve around the children / young people first and foremost.
We need to recognize that at some point, our light will fade if we don't recharge it. I personally, know that we spend so much time thinking about keeping them safe, fed, clothed, occupied and stimulated, getting bedtime routines done, packing their bags on top of everything else and it can be overwhelming and exhausting.
Over the past couple of years, I have realized the importance of taking time for myself. I am teaching my children that I need time too. Obviously, they aren't always receptive and understanding, I know, but they will learn slowly with reassurance and routine that it's "my time." After all, they get to enjoy my time for them, this is "my time" for me.
I don't do anything extravagant. It all depends on my day and their day. Some days, I will take our dogs for an extra circle of the block on their walk. Other days I will just go for a drive for half an hour and listen to some songs uninterrupted without being asked to put their songs on. There are times when I can't leave the house, I am parenting single handedly, so I might pop a headphone piece in and listen to a song or quick podcast. I recommend a shower, a hot chocolate using the nice stuff, not the kids' stuff and getting that book I've been wanting to read for ages. If I plan to get 5 pages read, I've won. If I manage 10 pages - it's been a bonus. Something, that even if it is just for 5 minutes to begin with, that is just for you to enjoy.
I know for some, that yoga is their go to. There is nothing to set up, it's quiet and can take as long as you have to do. There are free videos and resources for yoga and breathing techniques online I know that if I were to get caught attempting to do yoga, my 16 year old would just watch me with a beady eye and my 8 year old would start flipping and doing the splits in front of me just because he can and I can't." Toni C, Family Support Worker, SEN Parent, Addington School.
The important thing is - find something that is just for you. Start with a few minutes if that's all you've got, build it up, introduce the idea to your children and family. The risks of caregiver stress and burnout for parents like us are soaring high. If you are finding yourself struggling, please get in touch with us. We are a friendly team who are here to help in whatever way we can, even if it's just for a hot chocolate, the nice stuff!
Common signs of caregiver stress include -
- Feeling tired and rundown
- Difficulty sleeping
- Being irritable / high anxiety
- Trouble concentrating
- Feeling resentful
- Eating / Drinking / Smoking more
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of motivation
- Frequent headaches
Common signs of caregiver burnout include -
- Much less energy
- Constantly exhausted even after a nap / break
- You neglect your own needs
- Feelings of helplessness
- Inability to relax even when help is available
- You catch every cold /flu going around
- Impatience and irritability
How to help yourself (so you can keep helping others)
- Take more time for yourself
- Healthy Eating
- Physical Activity
- Increase sleep
- Find what helps you (music, walking, reading, crochet, cooking, drawing, yoga, mindfulness)
- Get some help and support on board (respite, short breaks, social groups, family support workers)
The Family Support Workers at Addington are here to help promote self-care with tips and advice like this.
If there is anything incorrect, or you wish us to add or look into something, please give us a call or send us an email. We will always get back to you.
Make sure you check back soon for any coffee morning dates, workshop announcements, up to date resources as well as more tips!
Ellie and Toni