Early Years in Bath
In March, we hosted our second Early Years Workshop in Bath. The aims of the day were for parents of 0-5 year-old children to learn more about hemiplegia and to meet other families with whom they could identify.
Over 60 people attended with families travelling from as far afield as West Sussex and York. A bright blue double decker bus was stationed outside the venue, packed with fun activities to occupy the children. There were also arts and crafts activities inside the hall to keep little people busy (and even a few older ones!) The Women’s Institute were on hand with refreshments and an array of delectable cakes that would tempt even the die-hards off their diets…
In her first event as our newly-appointed CEO, Amy Couture welcomed attendees and introduced the Chair for the day, Dr. Ron Loh, a Consultant Paediatrician at the Royal United Hospital in Bath. Whilst providing an overview of hemiplegia, he was keen to point out that ‘there is much you can do to help your child’ and stressed that early intervention makes a huge difference. He discussed the benefits of an enriched environment and how ‘simple steps such as regularly changing the position of your child’s toys will provide constant stimulation and encourage the child to problem-solve cognitively.’
He also highlighted that being the correct weight in early life can make an impact on motor function, hence the importance of diet. He advised parents to make a self-referral for speech and language therapy if there were any concerns about feeding (see page 38).
The next speaker was Dr. Anne Gordon, Consultant Occupational Therapist at Evelina Children’s Hospital in London. She told parents to be actively engaged and ‘tell the therapist your priorities for your child, so that together you can identify measureable goals.’ She reiterated Dr Loh’s point about the importance of an enriched environment and also advised parents that ‘if you have any concerns about your child’s learning capabilities, try to get an educational psychologist to assess him/her before he/she begins school’. We then heard from Anna Paton, Child Stroke Project Manager from The Stroke Association, who signposted parents to useful support services for pre-schoolers, with HemiHelp being the first port of call!
The final talk was by parent member Lisa Reakes, who recounted her daughter Poppy’s experiences at school and gave helpful advice to parents. After the talks, parents broke into two smaller groups for informal chats to share experiences and advice.
Feedback from the parents was positive. Kerry Page, whose son Ethan is 18 months old and has hemiplegia, said “This is a great event because I had never even seen another person with hemiplegia. It is really good to meet other people in the same boat.”
Mike and Victoria Tompsett attended the event with their two sons, 6-year old Joshua, and 4-year old Dominic who has hemiplegia. Mike said “It’s been a great chance to find out how to be proactive and what things you can do yourself.”
On the whole it was a really successful day, and hopefully parents left feeling empowered and armed with some practical strategies, whilst also having made some new friends!
What was lovely was that it wasn’t just the parents who gained from the day. Dr Loh commented “Meeting parents outside of the clinical environment today has made it very real for me and given me a great insight into the condition, which I will share with the rest of my team.”
Key tips for parents:
- Be proactive and start intervention early.
- Simple steps like massaging your child can make a difference.
- Change the layout of your child’s toys/play area regularly to stimulate and challenge.
- Don’t be scared to ask your therapists lots of questions.
- Body weight is important to your child’s development so if there are feeding issues, get support from your speech and language therapist.
- If you have any concerns about your child’s learning abilities, seek an educational psychologist assessment before your child starts school.
- Rather than just describing your child's behaviour, video him/her and show that to the doctor.