23rd April 2018
21 Together & the O’Keefe Group working together
21 Together is a registered Kent-based charity set up by four mums of children with Down’s syndrome. Those mums, who are now the Trustees of the charity, realised there was a huge demand for local specialist training for parents and professionals and communal therapy sessions for the children so set about creating a new, locally-based charity.
The parents, who make up the charity’s trustee body, decided they would form fortnightly communication groups for the children to improve their speech and social skills, and provide an advice service for parents and carers.
These communication sessions help the children to succeed socially and to access mainstream schools along with their siblings and peers. The cash that the O’Keefe Group raises through Community Foundations is helping to fund these fortnightly groups and will make a massive difference to the children’s communication skills and social confidence.
We were recently invited to meet some of the children taking part in the workshops. They were fantastic, full of energy and just a delight. Two of the children we met were larger than life and enjoying being at the workshops and getting involved with the activities. Their names were Bethan and Lathan.
Introducing Bethan and Lathan
Bethan is a bright, bubbly nine-year-old who lives with her mum, dad and two brothers. She loves babies and all things pink. Bethan, though, has a severe speech delay and needs help to vocalise. She understands significantly more than she can communicate. She has some amazing friends both at home and in her mainstream school and she loves to socialise with them and be part of the gang!
Lathan, also nine, is part of a big family, with three siblings (Chantelle, 18, Phillip, 16, and his twin sister Cailyn), his pet dog Toby and a pet dragon called Sydney! Lathan has a huge personality and wants to be a part of everything life has to offer him. He has many different passions including football, swimming, performing arts and school. He goes to a mainstream junior school and has many friends who have learnt to sign to make him part of the group.
Bethan and Lathan are friends too and are trying to work out how to communicate with each other which, as pre-teens, can often be complicated. This is made harder by the communication difficulties they both face. However, through the workshops funded by our Community Foundations programme, these children are having fun and learning new social skills fast.
For Bethan and Lathan, these sessions provide a safe space to communicate in difficult situations. They are now grasping how to manage everyday situations and how to express their thoughts and feelings rather than just getting frustrated. Their social skills have come on in and leaps and bounds and the workshops will continue to provide a lifeline going forward.
Sarah Wildgoose, trustee for 21 Together, said: “The fortnightly groups focus on both sound production, social skills and confidence building, and although they have only been running since October they have already made a massive difference to all the children. We’re looking forward to doing more with the O’Keefe Group’s Community Foundation’s programme and working together to make more of a difference.”