Drummonds residents sensory garden

Drummonds gardeners

In 2011 leading designer and manufacturer of ergonomic tools, PETA UK, donated a selection of Easi-Grip® gardening tools to the residents of Scope’s Drummonds residential care home in Feering to enable them to make the most of their beautiful sensory garden.

A year later, PETA Managing Director Genny Crockett visited Drummonds, which is home to 39 adults with physical disabilities and other needs associated with cerebral palsy, to see how they are getting on with the tools!

Resident Karen, who has lived at Drummonds for 30 years, explained that Drummonds approached Writtle College and asked if they could help with a new garden design to create a sensory garden. “It was a wonderful idea because it gives us something different and fun to do. It took about five years of planning and a lot of fundraising, but it was all well worth it. We thoroughly enjoy it, sitting out in the evenings when it’s nice, and everyone chips in and helps with the gardening. We get out as often as possible and have gardening lessons once a week which is really interesting. The garden gives us a bit of peace and quiet too! I love it because it reminds me of my dad who always enjoyed gardening so it’s a nice way to remember him.”

Passion for gardening

Karen’s passion for gardening has been somewhat restricted over the years as she struggles with standard gardening tools: “It’s frustrating because I know what I want to do but can’t do it! Conventional gardening tools are out of the question but, because of the way they are designed, the Peta tools give me the ability to do gardening and enjoy it.”

Debbie Foster has been a tutor at the Drummonds Centre for six years and teaches the weekly gardening lessons. “We were delighted with the donation from Peta last year! We have so many different physical challenges among residents so it’s difficult to find products they can all use, but they adapt the Peta tools to a way that suits them. They have definitely helped the residents, who find getting out in the fresh air and actually doing something for themselves gives them a real sense of well-being.”

Genny Crockett was delighted to visit the centre and see the residents enjoying their garden with the use of Peta tools: “It really is great to see how our tools are helping the residents enjoy their garden and achieve something they wouldn’t otherwise be able to. They have done a fantastic job developing their sensory garden and I can see why they all love spending time in it. Our ergonomic tools cater for a wide spectrum of users, so it’s important for us to understand how people of all abilities find our products, and it was really interesting to see how each resident had their own method and style of use.”

Peta products, including gardening tools, kitchen utensils and scissors, have been designed in response to feedback from occupational therapists.

Missing the Olympics? Don’t worry, the Paralympics are coming!

Guest post from Neil Ross

Olympic flame

With the Olympics now over, already social media sites are being bombarded by people starting to miss the spectacle as their favourite sports competitions come to an end. Leaving a huge void in their lives and giving their sofas a chance to recover from the excessive use received over the past two weeks – if only they gave out armchair Olympic medals…

If, however you are one of the masses who crave more sport on TV, fear not – the Paralympics are coming! Channel 4 is the official broadcaster of the games and promises to have bigger and better coverage than ever before. Indeed their pre-games shows and the inclusion of disabled presenters has been very well received. A BBC insider told me in confidence that they were ‘gutted’ not to have secured the Paralympic coverage, but admitted that the C4 bid was ‘far superior’ to theirs.

Over the next few weeks and during the games I will be hoping to keep you informed from an insider’s point of view as I take my post as member of the Technical Official team at the Wheelchair Fencing Event at the Excel Centre in London.

As part of the International Wheelchair Fencing Committee, I along with my fellow members from Spain, Germany, Italy, Hong Kong and Brazil, will form a Technical Delegation that act as an arbitration, enforcement and rule-making body if required. We currently operate with several large rule books covering equipment, competition and organisation, and it is our responsibility to ensure that all wheelchair fencing is undertaken fairly and in the spirit of sportsmanship. If it isn’t in the rules – we make a rule!

Wheelchair Fencing was one of the first sports introduced as rehabilitation for disabled people and we have a proud heritage linked with the etiquette inherent with a combat sport such as fencing, which was used to settle matters of honour with duels in days gone by.

I hope the newly found pride in being British will transfer to the Paralympic spectators and that our Paralympians rise to the occasion and draw on the home support and make a ‘Gold Rush’ of medals in a similar vein to our Olympians – so wave your flags and make some noise!

Scientific success in the skills centre

Guest post from Tracey deMartino – Orchard Manor Skills Tutor

Orchard Manor science week

Throughout Sports and Science week, Orchard Manor residents attended sessions in their flat/day group. We received brilliant feedback about this as everyone seemed to really enjoy working with their flat mates which created a lovely atmosphere.

Monday was the day for building and naming our rockets. The young people worked with each other and if someone was stuck for a name, the rest of the group were there to lend a hand – with names from “The Fizzard of Oz” to “Flying Without Wings”! In drama we made up stories about the adventures we might have in space if we could take off in the rockets built with Tracey, whilst in Art there was plenty of glitter to make the rockets go intergalactic.

On Tuesday we moved onto the launching of our rockets which was thoroughly enjoyed by all – except Tracey! (“I smell like I’ve been working in a fish and chip for a week without any washing facilities!”) Everyone was cheering each other as we launched our rockets and there was a brilliant atmosphere. The winner was Jess’ rocket (Pink Lady): it cleared 10 metres! Elizabeth (Adonis) and Joe’s (Beat Machine) were runners-up.

Experiments galore!

Wednesday was filled with numerous experiments. A competition started in Tracey’s room as we had a go at the Balancing Ball experiment (suspending a ball in a stream of air). There was lots of shouting by all – we’re sorry to say some were trying to put their competitors off! Emily beat all the competition by keeping her ping pong ball in the air for 1 minute and 26 seconds. The experiments in Shelley’s room focussed around sound. Amongst these experiments we listened to each other speak through: cups and string, homemade loud speakers and balloons filled with different things! In Vicky’s room the UV lights were working their magic, ice moulds were rubbed with salt to create holes and craters which the residents covered in fluorescent paint and sand, making them look like tiny glowing planets. These were left outside to melt – creating a space inspired, marble painting. We also made our own fluorescent lava lamps with glowing beads, which fizzed when we added effervescent powder. Rowena and Gemma were outside making volcanos using different shaped bottles, vinegar, bicarbonate of soda and food colouring. Everyone was encouraged to make choices, mix the ingredients together and let the volcanos erupt! There were also giant bubbles and balloon rockets.

It was an exciting week!


GASP: Emotional and thought-provoking theatre

Guest post from Ben Miles – Creative Director at Full House

This year’s production, GASP, was the sixth collaboration between Bedford-based professional theatre company Full House and young disabled actors from Bedford and District Cerebral Palsy Society.

BedFringe theatre festival

But this year was very different. Instead of a light-hearted, 25-strong cast on a summer school, eight young disabled people wanted to express their creativity and get their message across in a gritty and emotional studio piece. The young people leave school this year and move on to adult services so emotions were running high. The cast asked themselves questions about what was next? What they hoped for the future? What were their fears and what excites them about a bright new future outside of school?

Over a period of eight weeks the young people and the team from Full House came together to explore new ideas, express emotions and have new experiences with the aim of creating a contemporary performance piece. The final production was performed at two venues. The Hat Factory in Luton and Bedford’s The Place Theatre as part of the BedFringe theatre festival in July.

Martial arts, physical theatre and movement

The performance used media, martial arts, fantasy storytelling, physical theatre and movement to tell the story of a fish breaking free from its bowl and journeying to the ocean. The young people were encouraged to explore exactly what they wanted to express and this lead to a wonderfully varied and visually stimulating piece of theatre. Elements of performance ranged from: a rapper performing urban music written by a cast member, a scene set in a pub in which three young men expressed their wish to let loose and make their own choices, an abstract fantasy of a young girl who dreamed of becoming Snow White and a very brave young actor who chose to express to camera how he felt about his uncertain future and his love of his family. All this was punctuated by three dramatic sequences of African drumming. The beautiful, simple set and subtle lighting contributed wonderfully to the thought-provoking and abstract world that the cast created.

Audiences were staggered by their achievements. The young cast did a wonderful job. Some of them had never performed before and had to over come severe stage fright, others were simply overwhelmed when at last their voices were heard and their opinions expressed through art and music.

Review of GASP

Guest post from Judy Riley – Full House trustee and local arts journalist at the Beds on Sunday

GASP drummer

I just wanted to share my thoughts on this show. I went to see GASP in Bedford at 12.30pm on Saturday, July 21 on what was then the hottest day of the year so far.

I took my husband, my sister and her husband along. While my husband knew what kind of experience he would be likely to have, having seen Cirque Fantastique last year, my sister and her husband had only a sketchy idea of what was in store.

Whereas the impressions that I was left with of Cirque Fantastique were of fun, exuberance, positivity and brightness, at this performance of GASP, in the darkened space of The Place theatre, the atmosphere was altogether more focused and profound. Yes, there was fun; yes, there was energy but it was an experience that went much deeper into the souls and deepest feelings of the young performers involved. It was one of the most moving shows I have ever seen – and I’ve seen a few! The actors were given the opportunity to explore their hopes, fears and dreams in a challenging way but it never felt as though they were being patronised or marginalised. The filmed excerpts were incredibly powerful and the drumming exciting and liberating.

Bedford and District Cerebral Palsy Society actors

As for the input of the Full House practitioners I can honestly say that it was amazing. The sensitivity that Ben, Harriet and the other actor/musicians – displayed was exceptional. I will never forget Ben, through his eyes and his spirit, wordlessly encouraging young actors with massive speech problems to articulate their innermost thoughts. Moving soundlessly across the stage, each member of the team guided the Bedford and District Cerebral Palsy Society actors purposely but with utter thoughtfulness through the action. The show was uplifting and wholly enlightening; anyone who saw it will have been touched by something very special.

I am known for being reduced to a soggy pool of tears at the slightest provocation so it comes as no surprise that I was reduced to racking great sobs within minutes of the show starting but Chris had to wipe his eyes at the curtain call, as did my brother-in-law – and my sister got through at least a handy pack of Kleenex too.

GASP was an inspirational show – not only, I’m sure, for those young actors who took part – but also for every member of that audience.

Congratulations Full House: for me, it’s what being involved with the company is all about…

Extract from GASP

GASP was the sixth collaboration between Bedford-based professional theatre company Full House and young disabled actors from Bedford and District Cerebral Palsy Society.

Young disabled actor

Here is a short extract from their work:


Through rounded glass and waters blue

You see me and I see you.

You look in and I look out

You tap the glass, I dart about.

And swim and swim in circles here

Familiar waters safe and near

But on occasions I dare to dream

Of a babbling brook, a bubbling stream

Where beyond your watch I’d be

But might learn out there to swim free.

New waters deep and dark to swim

Where a new kind of journey might begin

New places, different possibilities

The rushing river, the endless seas

And though I am safe here my bowl inside

That big wide world from which I hide

If I am to swim the way I could

I must leave this sphere of glass for good

So one day soon the time will be

When you will have to set me free

And finally from your gentle grasp

I’ll wriggle free, I’ll jump and gasp…

Read a review of GASP.

My personal experiences of Cerebral Palsy

Melissa Parker is 20 and, as a result of a break from education due to surgery, is undertaking A-levels with hopes of earning a place on a law programme in 2013.

I first became interested in writing about my personal experiences of Cerebral Palsy when I read Andrea Dworkin’s article “Through the Pain Barrier” – it provided a forthright, fiercely earnest and human account of pain, disability and aging.

Being “normal”

It was also overwhelming because, having had Cerebral Palsy all of my life, it is difficult to remember that my experiences are not “normal.” They do not conform to other people’s experiences and perceptions. It was a moment of clarity, transparency, lucidity to remember certain times in my life that have been shaded, positively or negatively, by experiences such as these.

As a child I grew up with a mother who was determined that I would be “normal”, I did not in point of fact think there was anything out of the ordinary about myself until I was nine, and why would I? I had most of the customary childhood experiences: I played Mary and hit Joseph on the head, with a providentially, plastic baby Jesus. I would amuse myself by wearing toy high heels on my hands rather than on my feet, I would spend most of my early years as a quintessential tomboy complete with knee-length football shirt, which my mother had bought me as an Easter present, and quite naively as I then thought, assumed I would allow her to return it purely because it was too big. There were moments when my disability would affect existence, though I was apathetic about it, after all I knew and, as I realised when I read the aforementioned article now know no different. I had camouflage splints and a wheelchair which was yellow with red stripes. As I have grown those things have altered and as a consequence physically, emotionally and socially so have I.

I think numerous people automatically assume that disabled children are naturally angelic and my mother has always told me she did not know what to expect of a child diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. However, what she got was, in all probability, the child most unlike the child she imagined, in terms of temperament, determined, stubborn and inquisitive. I would most often question all and make observations to an, in general, taken aback audience.

Side-effects of surgery

When I had the second surgery, I did have hallucinations I was an axe murderer, vivid dreams where, I admit, my wickedness took on an atmosphere akin to a Robert Louis Stevenson novel. This was as a result of potent painkillers and was a contributing factor in my decision to stop using them soon afterward. I refer to that period as my “Yellow Submarine” phase. Looking back I was a sixteen-year-old girl who had been pumped full of drugs it is no wonder they effected me so significantly furthermore it is also accurate to say that realism is difficult when your perceptions are so altered.

I remember a few things exceedingly, and sometimes dreadfully, distinctly so much is ambiguous and might not have happened, I remember most evidently the one split second of regaining consciousness, an overwhelming understanding that it was going to be arduous, laborious and exhausting nevertheless I was going to get on with it. This feeling occurred after both surgeries it was just, I believe, an innate knowledge that I had to.

I am fortunate to have had my mother as my supporter, the stoic woman I know, from the youngest of ages I wanted to emulate that strength, she has inspired me to fight regardless.

I was recently told that my disability made me determined to succeed I was initially offended by the remark it was so indifferent, listless. I can, after all imagine that any disability gives people determination, fortitude and resolve.

Botulinum toxin A

The one memory I will always retain, etched into my remembrance indelibly, is my experience of Botulinum toxin A, also known as Botox, anyone is considering trying it to treat Cerebral Palsy should not be put off by the following narrative, I am aware that it has helped many. However as I writing about my understanding of the events to inform others I believe it is important to give a sincere account of my experience. I was a young child when I had my first, and only, treatment with Botulinum toxin A, it was not effective however it was a distressing experience. I recall the first sharp pain, just as evidently as I do my Winnie the Pooh backpack, I remember being held down as the others were injected into my legs and I recall, most vividly, wondering why my mother and god-mother, who were both present, did not intervene. I have been asked since whether the fact that the treatment was not effective contributed to my antipathy toward the experience. I do not know. I do know, however, that I am pleased I tried it. One day there may be something which alleviates Cerebral Palsy and it is that knowledge that makes experiences such as these worth it.

The experiences which have built what I refer to as ‘character’ have been numerous and thus far I have been exceedingly fortunate that my physical world has been, comparatively, unaffected however there are instances when one is aware of physical barriers, mobility lessens when pain is enhanced is a truth as I have acknowledged

The one emotion I felt through the years, especially as a teenager, is frustration. It has motivated me immensely; I believe the teenage years are the most arduous phase emotionally, which has made me consider writing something that will be, I hope; an earnest and human account. I recently read Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell To Arms and was most conscious of the following quote: “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” It sums up my views and beliefs about my own disability and experiences.