Aiming high for children with disabilities

Families in Staffordshire are being reminded about an activity programme for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)

The relaunched Aiming High programme provides a range of activities to help young people build confidence, become more independent and learn new skills. The scheme is available to young people up to the age of 18 who live in Staffordshire.

The programme is funded by Staffordshire County Council, with activities being delivered by a wide range of organisations. Activities are available to children of different abilities and include sensory experiences, day trips, sports, youth clubs, nature and outdoor activities.

The updated webpage at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/aiminghigh has details of the activities and short breaks available.

One Staffordshire family enjoying the activities provided by Caudwell Children under the Aiming High programme said: “This is a perfect opportunity for my son to develop independence skills and to make new friends. It helps my son to socialise with others in a safe environment, with staff who are trained to support him.”

Talking about the programme, Jonathan Price, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Education and SEND, said: “We work closely with schools and education settings to ensure they are as inclusive as possible and meet any SEND needs as early as possible.

“Aiming High is a great programme to compliment this as independent skills are encouraged at every age and the children’s needs are at the centre of every activity.

“It’s really important for young people to get the experiences they need to develop their social skills and confidence and for some, this is something they cannot do without the specialist equipment and facilities that are available through the Aiming High programme. This year we have funded more organisations to support the needs of these families outside school and I would urge people to have a look at the updated web pages to see what help is available.”

With more than 16,000 pupils in Staffordshire diagnosed with a special educational need and many more in the process of getting a diagnosis, this programme is designed to boost children and young people’s confidence and independence. To help families that have yet to get a formal diagnosis for their child or young person, the activities are based on need and do not require a formal Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) to be in place.

Families can access a set number of free activities each month, usually one a month with extra during school holidays. These are available to book a month in advance. Certain activities are open to the whole family, while others are suitable for children and young people to attend independently.

Tracey Francis, from Gartmore Riding School added: “We’re proud to support children and young people of all ages, abilities and disabilities through the activities we have been providing through the Aiming High scheme.

“Our staff and volunteers provide tailor-made riding and horse-care sessions for the wide range of people we work with. We also provide equine sensory therapy in our outdoor Learning Pathway for individuals and groups whose physical and mental health needs will benefit from being outdoors and with ponies.”

One young person spoke about their experience at the riding school and said: “I love being with the horses. They make me feel special and I love helping them and looking after them.”

Lowri Bartrum, Associate Director for Children and Families at Caudwell Children, said: “So many families of SEND children have been affected by the lack of social interaction for themselves and for their children over the last few years due to COVID. These children are often the most vulnerable and rely on our services to meet children their own age and to enjoy activities that they wouldn’t normally be able to do.”

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