16 August 2016
Georgia Gwillim with Thomas Mathias-Jones
A MUM from Newport has paid tribute to volunteers who give their free time to support people of all ages with dyspraxia.
Julia Mathias-Jones says that the Dyspraxia Foundation South East Wales children’s group, which is based in the city, has given her son, Thomas, six, amazing support since he first attended.
The group was started earlier this year by Dr Catherine Purcell, a psychology lecturer who works at the University of South Wales (USW), and Sally Scott-Roberts, an occupational therapist who works at Cardiff University.
The aim is to support the families of children in the south east Wales area who have Developmental Dyspraxia (often referred to as Developmental Coordination Disorder) - a developmental disorder which affects motor co-ordination.
As well as offering peer support, the group also complements statutory health and education services and focuses on encouraging the children to have fun and make friends.
Julia noticed early on that Thomas’ development was not coming on as expected.
“When Thomas’s speech wasn’t developing, he was able to go to a speech therapist and get help,” Julia, who is married to Edward, explained.
“However, his physical development plateaued and he had generalised joint hypermobility. This is quite a usual thing in many children, but it led to visual problems for Thomas and influenced his reading.”
Julia became aware of the Dyspraxia Foundation group ‘at exactly the right time’, as Thomas had begun to think he was no good at anything and was reluctant to join in with other children.
From the outset, Thomas has regularly attended the group.
“After I spoke to Sally on the phone I took Thomas along, and he absolutely loved it from day one,” she said.
“I dropped off a non-speaking child… two hours later I collected a happy and noisy child who couldn’t wait to go back.”
And the reason for the change in Thomas was easy for Julia to explain.
“The people at the group just understand the children,” she said. “It’s amazing for him to have this support.
‘“Before he never wanted to join in or be part of other groups, but now he’s always asking when he can go again.
“The people there have never asked what he needs. They understand what his challenges are, and support him through everything.”
Catherine explained why her and Sally set up the group.
“We both care passionately about helping children with hidden disabilities, and were concerned that there was no parent support group currently in this part of Wales that could facilitate support amongst families,” she said.
“The children’s group provides a safe environment where those who attend can build confidence, have fun and make friendships. They are encouraged to try new things alongside volunteers who understand their challenges and appreciate the many strengths they all have.”
The group holds free meetings every two months in Newport for families who have a family member of any age with dyspraxia. It also aims to raise awareness of the condition, and offers members contact with other families. It also provides monthly activities for children, which may have a small charge. Families are encouraged to join the Dyspraxia Foundation.
This summer’s activities are being supported by a grant from BBC Cymru Children in Need.
For further details email email@example.com or call 07398 538744.
Students are happy to help
TWO USW students are using their free
time over the summer to support the Dyspraxia Foundation South East Wales
Gabrielle Jones, 22 (below right), a mum of one from Newport, and Georgia Gwillim, 20 (below left), from Chepstow, who both study psychology withdevelopmental disorders at the University of South Wales (USW), are volunteering with the group.
Gabrielle and Georgia got involved after
being introduced to the group by Dr Purcell.
Gabrielle, who returned to studying after becoming a mum and plans to become an occupational therapist when she graduates, explained why she got involved.
"I started volunteering because I really like to help people, we have so much fun and it's amazing seeing the children progress," she said.
"It's also been very beneficial for my studies, allowing me to put what I have learnt into practice. The experience will be useful for my future career, as I will be working with people of all ages who have a range of developmental difficulties."
Georgia, who started her degree straight from studying for A-levels at Chepstow School, is also keen to gain and share experience while working with the support group.
“When I finish university I really want to work with children with special needs, and being able to offer my support and experience to the families in Newport was an ideal opportunity,” she said.
“It’s really great fun and has helped with my confidence, and it also helps you get a wider view of the general needs that children with dyspraxia have, and how you can support them.
“When I leave USW I want to go on to do a PGCE, and become a primary school teacher for children with special educational needs.”
Catherine added: “The children’s group could not run without the continued support and enthusiasm of our student volunteers from USW and Cardiff University.”
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