My guide dog knows more tennis venues than Judy Murray

Rosie Pybus is working with the Lawn Tennis Association and Tennis Foundation to give more disabled people the opportunity to try and enjoy tennis.

A while ago, I was playing Two Truths One Lie as an icebreaker. “I have a guide dog, I play tennis and I am blind,” I said, pausing as confusion swept the room. After a few moments, I piped up again that I wasn’t blind, but I did have a guide dog and I did play tennis. So if I’m not blind, I must be sighted… right?

Wrong. Only three per cent of people who are registered blind have no sight at all but, even if I was in that minority group, there would still be pathways and opportunities for me to play and enjoy tennis.

Starting out with tennis

Right up until I reached the age of 19 in 2010, I had no interest in sport and was never captivated or engaged by school sport, so when my friend was adamant that I should play tennis with her, I really wasn’t buying it!

Rosie hitting ballWhen I started out on my journey into sport, I had no idea that I would end up writing this blog and reflecting on the fantastic opportunities that I would not have faced had I not given in and tried tennis twice!

Five years down the line, I have become practically inseparable from my tennis racket, and my guide dog knows the route to more tennis venues in the UK than Judy Murray!

Rosie with the full teamI am very privileged to be involved in tennis, and to have the opportunity to work alongside so many fantastic people on a local, regional, national and international spectrum! The only thing more exhilarating than stepping off the train, bus or metro in Newcastle, York, Leeds, Sheffield or London and telling Kane to “find the tennis club!” is that buzz of excitement when the support I give others allows them to triumph and succeed.

As a player, I love tennis and think that the magic of the sport is its inclusiveness! It is perhaps the only sport where somebody who is visually impaired can play doubles on a team with somebody who is a wheelchair user playing against somebody who is deaf/hearing impaired and somebody who has a learning disability with very few adaptations to the rules and equipment.

Becoming a tennis coach

Rosie with the tennis group on court

Loving tennis so much, I couldn’t stop at playing the game and in 2011 I signed up to my level 1 coaching assistant course at Sunderland Tennis Centre, followed in 2014 by my level 2 course at Leeds Beckett University and a whole host of CPD courses in between. Tennis has given me the confidence to develop myself and now, as a coach, I feel so privileged to play a part in many more people’s tennis journeys, hopefully helping to inspire them to pursue their newfound passion for the inclusive game!

As well as the life-changing confidence that I have developed on court and off, tennis has given me a job, a hobby, a career, lifelong friendships, and the ability to move out into my own flat and build my own life.

Rosie with a tennis trophyI would encourage everyone to try tennis twice, let it intrigue you the first time and captivate you the second and you will truly see the magic that the game has to offer! If this article inspires you to do one thing, please follow me on Twitter and join in the discussion with @DsbltyTennisNE, @BritishTennis and @TennisFndation. Have your say and find out where you can try and love tennis for free local to you #AnyoneForTennis?

Want to discuss your own experiences with Rosie? Join her on our online community now.

Rosie is School Games Project Officer at Tees Valley Sport and Self Employed Coach and Consultant trading as Successful Approach. For further information and to get involved, email SuccessfulApproach@outlook.com or enquiries@tennisfoundation.org.uk

Tips for a good night’s sleep

We are currently running a sleep appeal. Have you or your child ever had problems sleeping? Read this blog for some brilliant tips from our Sleep Practitioners. 

Consistency is key

If your child wakes in the night, return them to bed, tuck them in and say, “It’s night time (name) go to sleep”. Don’t enter into any discussions or negotiations.

Social story

If your child has learning disabilities and has troubles settling or sleeping, especially if they are scared of having bad dreams, try using a social story explaining what dreams are and that nightmares are just bad dreams.

Natural wakings

We all wake naturally four to five times a night. Once we have learned to sleep, we don’t wake fully during these natural wakings. One of the common reasons a child will wake fully is because the conditions have changed – for example,  if you were with them when they fell asleep, then vanished.

Family photo

Try putting a family photo in your child’s room, as that can be comforting for natural night wakings.

Smells like mum

Child sleepingTry putting your own pillow case on your child’s pillow, as the scent will be comforting.

No controlled crying

We don’t advocate controlled crying as an approach as it’s too emotional for parent and child, and only makes your child over stimulated.

Golden hour

There is a ‘golden hour’ before bedtime.  If your child is lying in bed for too long before bedtime, they will not associate bedroom with sleep. If their bedtime routine is too short they will be too awake.

Keep it boring

Children come up with some fantastic distraction techniques to avoid going back to bed at night! If your child asks for a drink, offer water. If they’re thirsty they’ll drink it. If not, they’ll get tired of being given a boring drink after a couple of nights and stop asking.

No vanishing acts

Make sure your child is awake when you kiss goodnight. If you stay while they fall asleep and then sneak out, it will only upset them when they wake naturally in the night and you have vanished.

Start earlier

Children reading a book in bedIf your child is taking a long time to fall asleep, start their bedtime routine earlier, so they associate bed with sleep.

Give it time

It can take two weeks for a child to learn a new behaviour, so consistency is key to whatever approach you take. Parents who say they’ve ‘tried everything’ may not have given each approach long enough.

Sleep diary

It is not uncommon for children with cerebral palsy to wake frequently at night because they become stiff or experience pain, and need repositioning. Using a sleep diary and hypnogram can help you work out when to do it so your child is in a deeper stage of sleep and you don’t fully wake them.

Gradual changes

Disability can be exhausting and many disabled children need extra sleep. As children get older they will need less sleep, so make gradual changes, say around puberty, moving bedtime by 15 minutes every 3 days.

Special teddy

Try keeping a teddy that belongs to you close to you for several days, then allowing your child to look after it over night and return it to you in the morning. This can act as reassurance that you will be there in the morning because you will need your teddy back.

Gradual exit

Mother checking on child sleepingIf your child gets comfort from you being there while he/she goes to sleep at night, try making a gradual exit. Start by sitting on the bed holding their hand with a glove on, removing yourself gradually over 2/3 weeks leaving them with the glove.

Hold off the lavender

Too much lavender can prevent the production of melatonin, so don’t overdo lavender in the bath before bed. Make sure bath is half an hour before bedtime, giving time for your child’s body temperature to drop.

Wind down time

Start preparing your child for sleep an hour before bedtime, turning off the TV, computer etc, and doing some reading or fine motor activities which will help with relaxation and the production of melatonin.

Were these tips helpful? Please donate to our sleep appeal so that more families of disabled children can get the support they need.

For more great tips and ideas, why not see what other parents have tried. Check out our fab new sleep tips section.