Lunch and a pamper! ... treat for parents at SEND support event

• Parents and professionals at the SEND support event. Left: Natalie Walsh (SENDSCOPE), Jacqueline Bebbington, and Natalia Figueroa. Front centre: Alexis Gatland (wearing red check), Rev Jean Flood, and Gayle Connor-McCreith. Right: Julie Verdin (volunteer) and Rev Fiona Pennie.

THE Opening Doors Project has hosted its first conference for parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) since the start of the pandemic, providing advice, refreshment and a much-deserved pamper.

The return of the popular event featured an information display and short talks from experts in the field of SEND from LivPaC, Liverpool City Council and SENDSCOPE. This was followed by a buffet, opened by Rev Fiona Pennie.

While tucking in to sandwiches and cakes, there was an opportunity for guests to ask questions of the invited professionals and meet with other parents.

Visitors were also offered a chance to get their  hair done and have a manicure.

One of the parents attending was Alexis Gatland, from Walton, who has three children, two with additional needs, Ewan, 9, and Emmett, 5.

Alexis believes there needs to be more support for parents and carers of children with special needs, particularly for their mental health.

“I have struggled quite a bit, especially through the pandemic,” she said, “My children were not able to go to mainstream school and I struggled being stuck indoors all the time with two autistic children. It was difficult.”

However, Mrs Gatland said she is grateful for the help she has received and that it is important that parents understand what support is available.

“A lot of people are unaware of the help that is out there for people with autistic children.” the mum of three said, “And people do not feel that they can approach anyone. Like with our mental health, we struggle with approaching anyone about it.

“But when you get that help it does make the journey easier.”

• Mum has a manicure at the parents' event.

One organisation Alexis was already familiar with was LivPaC, which organised weekly Zoom meetings through the lockdowns to provide support for struggling parents.

“I looked forward to those sessions,” she said, “I needed them. We were all in the same boat. We were just trying to survive the pandemic.”

Natalie Figueroa, from LivPaC, told of how they can help with getting children the right support they need in schools. While Tracey Williamson from Liverpool City Council said the authority provides one-to-one support for families of children with autism, for the whole of the “journey”.

Jacqueline Bebbington talked about a new school called SENDSCOPE which helps children adjust to mainstream school life while also coaching school staff how to care for their particular needs.


This blog story appeared in October issue of Walton Herald. 

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