“We’re all part of a community, both on and offline.”

Continuing our celebration of Volunteers’ Week, we talk to Niki Michael who volunteers for Scope’s online community. Niki is mum to 10-year old Maria, who has Dystonic Quadraplegia, as well as two younger children, aged 7 and 5. Here she talks about what motivates her to volunteer and why she enjoys it.

When my daughter was first diagnosed, the Scope forum – as it was then – was a great source of information and support for me. Ten years’ later, when I found out Scope was launching an online community, I wanted to be a part of it, as I felt might have something useful to give back.

Being a ‘community champion’ involves welcoming new members, keeping an eye on conversations that I might be able to contribute to and promoting the online community to people who may not be aware of it. I log in a couple of times a week, and reply to posts on topics ranging from education to medication. They’re always quite varied!

Niki and her daughter Maria

My daughter is about to go into a mainstream secondary school. She uses a wheelchair and a communication aid, so I’m happy to offer any insights I’ve gained through raising her and championing her rights.

We all have something to contribute

I think it’s really important for families of disabled children to look out for one another, support each other and impart their knowledge. Parents on the community understand completely the stresses and challenges of raising a child with complex needs.

For me, being able to support other parents is incredibly rewarding, and introducing new people to the community – knowing it will be a great resource for them – is great.

We don’t live in isolation, we are all part of a bigger community, both on and off line, and if we want that community to be more tolerant, compassionate and fair to disabled people, then we all have a responsibility to be part of changing it. Volunteering your time for something you feel passionate about is a great of doing that.

My experience as a community champion has shown me that collectively we are stronger , and we all have something valuable to contribute. The community is a really positive space. Even when someone is struggling, the responses from others are always solution-based, which is really important. When you ‘re having a bad day, having someone there to lift you up emotionally or with really solid advice may be just what you need.

You can see Niki in our online community here.

Meet our other community champions and find out more about Scope’s online community.

The Curious Incident relaxes in Southampton

The National Theatre’s multi award-winning production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, adapted from Mark Haddon’s best-selling book, is making its Southampton debut at the Mayflower Theatre on 23 June, with a relaxed performance on 2 July at 2pm.

The relaxed performance, which is presented in association with the National Autistic Society (NAS), is designed for those who may enjoy a less formal environment, in particular people with autism, sensory or communication disorders or learning disabilities.

Audience members will be free to move about during the performance, and there will be a relaxed attitude to noise and talking. The idea is to provide a more supportive environment for disabled people and their families, many of whom may otherwise feel a trip to the theatre would be out of the question.

There have been two previous relaxed performances for Curious Incident – one at the National’s Cottlesloe Theatre and one in the West End. Most recently there was a relaxed performance of the National’s award winning production of War Horse, also in association with the National Autistic Society.

Adapting the novel for stage

Playwright, Simon Stephens, who adapted Haddon’s novel for the stage, said: “The adaptation was a really joyful experience.The key to it was the relationship between Christopher and his teacher. Although it’s not that central in the novel, what struck me was that everybody in life has a favourite teacher.

“Even people who hated school, even people who found school a miserable experience, had one teacher who they loved more than others and thought got them in a way that other teachers didn’t. I knew that if I could get that relationship right, then we could create an evening in the theatre that people could recognize themselves in.”

Ros Hayes, Head of Access at the National Theatre, said: “We are keen to share our plays with a wider audience, and provide an opportunity for families to enjoy a visit to the theatre together. We want to create a welcoming, stress-free environment for people.”

The staff and cast of Curious Incident have all received autism awareness training, and NAS volunteers will be on hand to help audience members in need of support. A visual story, outlining what to expect, has also been developed to help prepare the audience for their visit.

Relaxed performance tickets are on sale now, price £15.00 each. Please call the Box Office on 02380 711811 for more info or to book. Age recommendation 11+