Tag Archives: Christmas

Smiiffy’s 7 tips for coping with isolation

Josh, popularly known as “Smiiffy”, is a rapper from Birmingham who is looking to challenge attitudes and raise awareness of mental health and disability. He did an Instagram Stories takeover for Scope on Friday, where he shared “What I Need To Say” posts throughout the day, and even wrote a special verse.

I have anxiety, depression and borderline personality disorder. I haven’t been in a good place in the past few months. My anxiety sometimes makes it difficult to be happy, even around my own family. It also means that it’s quite difficult to know what mood I’m going to be in for Christmas.

Josh sitting on a pub bench, looking into the camera

There are a lot of times I do feel isolated. I often find that I do it to myself because I prefer to be alone. I constantly feel alone in a crowd. Even if I’m surrounded by good friends, I feel alone. I sit alone for a while and think that I don’t fit in here. And I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere, which is really difficult sometimes.

Scope’s What I Want To Say campaign is important to me because I feel like Scope’s giving people the opportunity to have a voice and let me say what I genuinely need to say. Letting people know that they’re not alone, and that there are other people there who are wanting to listen to them is incredible.

As part of this campaign, I took over Scope’s Instagram on Friday 8 December, and am sharing my top tips for reducing isolation:

Smile

Whether it’s someone I know well, or a stranger in the street, one of my favourite things to do is just smile. I feel like if someone’s having the worst day, at least I’ve acknowledged them. Plus, it always makes me feel much better too!

A hug always helps

Hugs always make me feel good. Be it a friend, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a cousin, a family member or whoever, it helps you forget about the loneliness, depression and anxiety you might be feeling for a while.

Social Media

Josh taking a selfie in front of a mirrorI always thought that I’d be lonely and I posted that on social media. That was the first time that I accepted my own mental health. Telling people how you feel on social media can help things improve.

I use it positively, to raise awareness and let people know that there is help out there. You can also be anonymous on social media and that can make it easier to talk about the fact that you’re struggling.

Find someone to talk to

For people that are lonely, there are a few community clubs and centres out there that are open for people on Christmas day. If people are alone, that’s definitely one thing that could help.

If you’ve got family around you but you’re still struggling, just trying to talk to people can help. In most families, there’s at least one person that understands, so if you can speak to that one person, then things can get easier. Just expressing your needs to somebody else will help in the long run, because they will find a way to help you through it.

Speak to organisations that can help

Josh (Smiiffy) wearing a Scope T-shirt

Scope have helped me massively. They’ve helped a lot of friends too. I’ve never really told anyone that I have Bilateral Perthes’ disease but through working with Scope and seeing the work they do, it made me feel confident enough to tweet about it. I feel motivated by Scope to raise awareness of invisible impairments, like mental health.

Do something you love

I think that a hobby, something you’re good at or enjoy, can help. When I started music, I wanted money, fame, popularity but then I released a song about when I was struggling called “Air I Breathe”. When I realised how many people it had impacted, I knew that was my calling.

Music has been hard because I don’t like the attention but I fought off my fears. If you have a talent and use it to create good things for yourself and inspire thousands of others, it can be life changing. I also like giving back to charity because as well as music, charity saved my life.

Smiiffy, a young disabled man, smiles by a microphone

Help raise awareness

Over the years thousands of people have messaged me and said positive things like “I love your music, you’ve saved my life” or “you’ve made me open up about my own mental health” which is incredible.

I want people to let people know that, if they’re struggling to talk or feel like they’re not going to be heard, speaking out about what you’re going through can really help.

Too often disabled people struggle to access the right emotional support, advice and information. As a result they feel like no one truly understands, leaving them disconnected and isolated from those around them. This is particularly heart-breaking at Christmas.

Please help us this Christmas by getting involved with our What I Need To Say campaign. Share the message, tell us your stories, and donate to Scope so we can be there for people who have nowhere else to turn.

Poor accessibility can lead to isolation, but this theatre company is changing that

Pippa works on Scope’s online community and is also an accessible theatre blogger. The festive season seems to be filled with activities but when they aren’t accessible, disabled people and families are often left out. This can be very isolating. For our What I Need to Say campaign, Pippa spoke to Erin, whose company DH Ensemble is leading the way in accessible theatre.  

Going to the theatre is an experience enjoyed and cherished by many families, especially during the festive season. However, like many other activities, theatres and shows often fail to be wholly inclusive of disabled people.

Although the accessibility of venues is improving, content isn’t always suitable for people with specific disabilities. However, one theatrical company with inclusivity at its heart is The DH Ensemble (previously called The Deaf & Hearing Ensemble). I talked to Erin Siobhan Hutchings about their new show.

Based on Erin’s own experiences of growing up with her deaf sister, ‘People of the Eye’ features Deaf and hearing cast members and uses stunning visuals to create an immersive experience for all.

Accessibility is a forethought, not an afterthought

Accessibility is built into the aesthetic, so deaf and hearing audiences can enjoy the show on an equal basis. For example, we use integrated sign-language as well as creative captioning, so whether you’re relying on that to access a performance or not, it brings so much more to your understanding of the world and the characters. I think that makes the work so much more interesting. It adds layers to the narrative and the way that you tell the story and connect with the audience.

Whilst the show was primarily designed with D/deaf and hearing audiences in mind, we also strive to ensure that venues where the show are performed are wheelchair-accessible. The production team also take precautions to ensure that audiences are aware of the visual effects beforehand, by sending out resources including descriptions of lighting effects and images of the projections used to those who request them.

Two women on a stage in front of the words '2 player mode'

Being excluded can be really isolating

The story is about myself and my sister growing up but it could easily be replaced with many other disabled people’s stories. The crux of the story is about families, relationships and isolation, and how important it is that we accept each other.

Deafness isn’t necessarily a disability that cuts you off physically or intellectually, but it’s isolation that can really affect people who have hearing loss. It’s that inability to communicate in a social situation that can be really isolating and that’s something that I noticed with my sister growing up.

We’ve tried to really show that in a way that puts the audience in that position, so some feedback we’ve had from audience members is that maybe a hearing person might not understand everything that happens in the play but that’s an important experience for them to have, they get some insight into that feeling of isolation themselves.

What I would really like people to take away is a little bit of empathy about the way that other people live their lives, and some idea about isolation and communication and how important that is. Then hopefully they’ll take that out with them into the world and influence the other spaces they go into.

Making theatre more accessible

It’s important that we’re all realistic about the diverse world that we live in. We’re a co-led deaf and hearing company and we strive to maintain that.

People understand that it may not be possible to make every single show accessible for everybody, but if you’re open to discovering what can make your work accessible, that’s a start. It’s better to ask people who really live the experience and get their feedback. I went to an interesting discussion with deaf and disabled artists recently where this was addressed.

Accessibility shouldn’t just be a tick-box exercise – put on a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreted show and do one relaxed performance and that’s it. That’s not really exploring the depth of how we can make sure our theatrical environment and all aspects of our society are welcoming for everybody, and that people can feel equal to everybody else.

As accessible theatre continues to slowly improve, it is the innovative work of companies such as The DH Ensemble that are really making strides in helping to address isolation and ensure that theatre really is becoming more inclusive for all.

The DH Ensemble is led by Jennifer K. Bates, Stephen Collins, Sophie Stone and Erin Siobhan Hutching. You can see People of the Eye in 2018:

  • 23 March Harlow Playhouse
  • 26 March Arlington Arts Centre
  • 7 April Nottingham Playhouse

Find out more about DH Ensemble and People of the Eye and get involved with our What I Need to Say Campaign.

I had a good life but cuts to social care have left me completely isolated

Angela spent years looking for the right kind of social care and eventually she found it. For a while she enjoyed having complete control over her life and led a very active one at that. However, in the past few years, drastic changes to her social care have left her isolated. In support of our Christmas campaign, Angela is sharing her story.

My mum found out that I had cerebral palsy when I was two and a half. She took me all over the place to find answers and she was constantly fobbed off with “Oh your baby is just lazy”. When she did get the diagnosis they said, “She’ll never do anything, she’ll never speak”. Which wasn’t true and sadly it still happens to parents today.

But you can only thrive if you’re given the right support, and that’s often the biggest barrier to living a full life if you’re disabled. Something I know all too well.

Angela as a child on a blanket cuddling a big dog
Angela as a child

I was always searching for something different

I grew up in residential schools and when I became an adult the only option – other than living with my mother – was to live in a residential home. I hated the regimentation. There was no independence and hardly any choice. You had to get up at a certain time, do this, do that, you only had three choices for your meals.

We were very isolated. The nearest town was Colchester and that was 10 miles away. There were no opportunities, nowhere to go. There was a factory on the grounds so we worked there. I had my 21st birthday there, among all these people that I didn’t know. It was very lonely. I was always searching for something different but I didn’t know what it was.

Then, one day I came across an article about a place that had the vision that you might be disabled but it doesn’t mean you can’t own your life and live your life. This was the first time I’d heard that kind of attitude.

I managed to get a place there but it was scary to begin with. By this time, I was in my mid-30s and I was so used to people deciding things for me. Suddenly I had a lot of say in how I lived my life. I could choose when I wanted a bath, when I wanted to go to the toilet, I could go out quite a lot. It was life-changing.

Finally living as an equal

After a few years I took the next step and decided that I wanted to live in my own place. It took a while to sort it out but soon I was moving into my own flat for the first time. I had two support workers who lived in a flat upstairs and were available to support me 24-hours a day. Finally, I was living as an equal.

My support workers relieved me of my ‘disability’ by doing things that I physically couldn’t do and I was in control of what I did and when I did it. I could invite friends round and they didn’t have to get involved with anything – they just saw me as me and not a disabled person. But sadly, this new life didn’t last.

Angela in front of hills and a castle
Angela on holiday, something she used to be able to do with friends

Cuts to social care have left me completely isolated

I remember hearing there would be cuts and there were cuts. Over the last few years my social care support has changed dramatically and with it my life has changed for the worse.

The carers that come now only take me to use the toilet, prepare simple meals and do my personal care. I get half an hour in the morning, three quarters of an hour for lunch, half an hour in the middle of the afternoon, three quarters of an hour in the evening and half an hour around bedtime. It’s the same every day. Then I get 2 hours a week to do a shop and 2 hours for housework. It has completely taken away my independence and left me very isolated.

I can’t live a life now. I’ve lost many friendships. I can’t do most of the community activities I used to do. I can’t just get up and do things, be spontaneous. I have to think about the consequences of everything I do. I used to do a lot of campaigning but I can’t do that anymore. I virtually have no social life.

It’s a very lonely way to live. The social care system urgently needs to change. I have a right to live in my community as an equal.

Too often disabled people struggle to access the right emotional support, advice and information. As a result they feel like no one truly understands, leaving them disconnected and isolated from those around them. 

Please help us this Christmas by getting involved with our What I Need To Say campaign. Share the message, tell us your stories, and donate to Scope so we can be there for people who have nowhere else to turn.

Millions of disabled people feel lonely, including me – let’s change this

Shani is an events manager, disability campaigner and entrepreneur from Walsall. She features in Scope’s new What I Need To Say campaign which highlights the isolation that millions of disabled people face. In this blog, Shani shares her own experiences.

At certain times in our lives, we are all likely to experience loneliness. We often talk about loneliness in elderly people but, as Scope’s new research shows, loneliness affects so many disabled people.

This can be down to poor access to services, inaccessible transport and venues, and financial challenges. When you face so many extra costs related to disability, it can stop you from being able to go out and do things like everyone else. That’s why I launched the Diversability Card – a discount card for disabled people.

Social attitudes are also a significant barrier. Many struggle to see the person beyond the impairment or condition and act awkwardly. One in four people have admitted to avoiding conversations with disabled people because they worry about causing offence or don’t know what to say. This really astonished me. Personally, I feel sorry for the non-disabled UK population who are missing out on interacting with 13 million of us fabulous people!

With so many barriers to contend with, imagine being a disabled person, experiencing the same life transitions as everyone else, but not being able to participate in the same way. No wonder disabled people feel lonely.

My own experiences of loneliness

Being part of the ‘What I Need To Say campaign’ by Scope made me really reflect about the times I have experienced loneliness or isolation, which has drifted in and out of my life over different periods.

As a young child, I attended a special needs school which made keeping in touch with friends very difficult as we lived miles away from each other. It also meant that I was sent to a separate school that my siblings, cousins, friends and neighbours attended. Whilst it was the best place for me because of the care I needed for my condition, it was hard to maintain friendships and any sort of social life.

Over the course of my childhood, I spent a lot of time in hospital with broken legs due to my condition Osteogenesis Imperfecta (brittle bones). I would be in hospital for a minimum of three months at a time, missing school and home whilst only having adults to really talk to. I was very lucky that I always had lots of family coming to see me during the visiting time, but this is such a short amount of time in what used to seem very long days as a child.

I’ve also experienced loneliness as an adult, being excluded from social situations or activities due to my condition or people making assumptions about what I am able to do, or not. It’s really frustrating, especially as I’m a very independent person who will always find an alternative way of doing things.

Shani smiling, stood on a cobbled street

Ending loneliness

I feel that increasing the awareness of different conditions and dispelling misconceptions about disability are major steps in combatting the ‘silent epidemic’ of loneliness and isolation.

Also, if you are a friend or family member of a person with an impairment or condition, take a moment to consider how they might be feeling, especially around this festive time of year. It can be as easy as making a quick phone call or popping in for a cup of tea to brighten someone’s day.

Too often disabled people struggle to access the right emotional support, advice and information. As a result they feel like no one truly understands, leaving them disconnected and isolated from those around them. This is particularly heart-breaking at Christmas.

Please help us this Christmas by getting involved with our What I Need To Say campaign. Share the message, tell us your stories, and donate to Scope so we can be there for people who have nowhere else to turn.

I thought I was the only one feeling like this, then the responses started coming in

Ellie felt isolated as a teenager so she set up CP Teens UK to connect other young people and show them that they’re not alone. Sport has transformed her life too. After spending years being excluded from P.E. lessons at school, she’s now competing at a professional level.

In this blog, Ellie shares her story and tells us why she’s dedicated to making sure that no-one else feels alone, like she did.

I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy just before my second birthday and my parents were told I’d never talk, walk, or function in a ‘normal’ world. Fast forward 22 years, and I do all three and even more! I went through mainstream education, achieving GCSE’s and A-Levels, and most recently a BSc, even though my parents were once told this was ‘impossible’.

Although I coped well academically, school began to get a bit difficult for me when I was around 13 or 14. That’s the age when kids start to form cliques and reject anyone who is a bit different. I felt lonely a lot of the time.

And it wasn’t just the students; teachers would actively discourage me from joining in with things. When we had a P.E. class the teachers would look at me and say: “Shall we go inside and do some homework Ellie?”

At the time, I went along with it because I was so self-conscious. My cerebral palsy is very obvious when I move and I wanted to stay inside and hide away.

Ellie, a young disabled woman, smiling at the camera
Ellie felt less alone after she set up CP Teens UK

I wondered if it was just me feeling like this

I realised that there was nothing out there for people like me, both socially and in terms of going out there and getting opportunities. I didn’t have the confidence to go out and get a job, and my friends all went off to university and forgot about me.

I felt like I was the only person on the planet feeling like this so I set up a Twitter account in the name of ‘CP Teens UK’ thinking nothing would really come of it. Then, the next day I woke up to loads of followers including Francesca Martinez and Sophie Christensen!

The response was amazing. People were getting in touch saying, “I feel the same way, it’s so nice to find someone else.” I got so many emails like that I couldn’t believe it. It made me feel less alone. I’ve met some really cool people.

Since then I’ve set up a Facebook page and a website and it just grew and grew and CP Teens UK became a fully registered charity in March this year.

Then sport opened up a whole new world for me too

Because I was discouraged at school, I avoided sport throughout my life. I wasn’t even aware that there were opportunities for disabled people in sport. Then, the Paralympics changed everything. Seeing disabled athletes at the top of their game made me realise what was possible.

I saw something on Twitter about a Paralympics GB Taster Day and I went along to see what it was like. It was an incredible day with an amazing atmosphere. When it came to sports, I’d always heard: “No, you can’t do that, it’s not safe” but now it was all: “Come on and have a go.”

Sport transformed my life and now I regularly train and compete internationally. I have just been selected for the 2018 World Cerebral Palsy Games in Barcelona. Out there on the track, being watched by hundreds of people, I am in complete control. As a disabled person, I don’t feel that way very often. Being cheered on by so many people who are all on your side is a powerful thing.

Ellie Simpson races an adapted bike on a race track
Ellie competing in RaceRunning

Hopes for the future

It’s important to let people know that they’re not alone. I set up CP Teens because I wanted to connect other people who, like me, just felt a little bit lost and to tell them that they’re not the only people out there who feel isolated.

Now I want to connect people through sport too. I’ve just finished a degree in Sports Coaching and I organise events through CP Teens. Sport is something that brings people together and I don’t want anyone else to be left out like I was.

Too often disabled people struggle to access the right emotional support, advice and information. As a result they feel like no one truly understands, leaving them disconnected and isolated from those around them. This is particularly heart-breaking at Christmas.

Please help us this Christmas by getting involved with our What I Need To Say campaign. Share the message, tell us your stories, and donate to Scope so we can be there for people who have nowhere else to turn.

Scope’s Santa of the year awards

For many disabled children and their families a trip to Santa’s grotto can be a difficult experience; the lights and sounds can be too much, many Santa Clauses can’t sign, and the grotto might not be wheelchair accessible.

Here are some heart-warming Santas who’ve gone the extra mile and made their Christmas festive and accessible. 

A tender moment between Santa and Landon

Six-year-old Landon explained to Santa at RiverTown Crossings Mall in Michigan that because of his autism he sometimes gets into trouble at school. Santa explained that Landon shouldn’t worry and that he has been a very good boy being who he is. Landon’s mum Naomi took this picture and shared their lovely story on Facebook.

a little boy is consoled by Santa

a little girl sitting on Santa's lapSanta’s magical gift for a girl with brittle bone disease

Upon finding out that 2-year-old Paige has type V osteogenesis imperfecta, Santa gave her a very special gift – a bell that had fallen of his reindeer Prancer – that she could ring whenever she was upset or scared about going to the doctor.

 

Signing Santa

For children who have trouble communicating, sometimes a signing Santa can make all the difference.

Sleeping Santa a little boy asleep on Santa's lap, who is also alseep

Two-year-old Ryland Wade, who suffers from epilepsy, fell asleep after having a seizure on his way to visit Santa at a mall in Ohio.

Fortunately Santa was also feeling sleepy and understood the situation.

Ryland’s parents took this adorable photo which was seen and shared by thousands online.

Have you had a magical Santa experience with your children? Share it in the comments section below.  

Christmas competition: your chance to win one of 13 books!

We’re getting very excited for Christmas! Over the past year we’ve been squirrelling away a great collection of books with disability at their heart. They either feature disabled characters, or are written and produced by disabled authors. 

As a big thank you for your support of Scope this year, we’ll be giving away a copy of each book in the run up to Christmas.

(Terms and conditions at the bottom of this page)

Toast: Autism in the Early Years

Two young boys smiling and holding a copy each of the book 'Toast'“Imagine the moment when your six year old child says his first word: “Toast”. Every parent remembers the joy of a child’s first word. Yet this key skill is so challenging for a person living with autism.”

Alice Boardman’s book attempts to answer all the questions that she had, when she first found out her two sons had autism. Win Toast. 

Good Kings Bad Kings

Illustrated front cover of Good Kings, Bad Kings - a man running around with a pair of scissors and attempting to chop off another character's thumbTold in alternating perspectives by a varied cast of characters, Good Kings, Bad Kings is a powerful and inspiring debut that invites us into the lives of a group of teenagers and staff who live at the ILLC.

From Yessenia, who dreams of her next boyfriend, to Teddy, a resident who dresses up daily in a full suit and tie, and Mia, who guards a terrifying secret, Nussbaum has crafted a multifaceted portrait of a way of life that challenges our definitions of what it means to be disabled. Win Good Kings Bad Kings. 

Paperweights

Mum Susanne sitting on the sofa with her daughter Mia“Sixteen years ago, I wished for a child. I prayed to the universe, and spirit answered me. Not with what I thought I wanted, but with exactly what I need. My daughter is my angel.” Susanne Crosby

This anthology of poems was created by parents and carers of disabled children from our Brighton parent befriending serviceWin Paperweights.

My Brother is an Astronaut

An illustration of two characters in astronaut's clothing, smiling“I know that there are lots of children – and adults! – in the world whose sensory experience and understanding of the world is a little “different”. It isn’t the exclusive domain of people with autism, so autism isn’t mentioned in the story. People with ADHD, ADD can have difficulties in this area too, as well as some children who are a bit “quirky” and don’t fit into any particular category. This book is written for them and for those they spend their days with, to try and help give an insight into their experience of the world.” Michelle Rundle. Win My Brother is an Astronaut.

Little Miss Jessica Goes to School

Cover of Little Miss Jessica Goes to School, showing an illustration of a little girl with one arm, smiling and walking with a backpack onJessica Smith is a former Paralympic swimmer who was born missing her left hand. She grew up with low self esteem and negative body image because she didn’t feel accepted within society due to her physical appearance.

Now, Jessica is sharing her journey through a series of children’s books to encourage young kids to realise that being different is okay! Little Miss Jessica Goes to School is the first in this series. Win Little Miss Jessica.

I Love You Natty

Front cover of the book - a yellow page with a family photo of Mia and Natty smiling“When my eldest daughter Mia was around six or seven years old, she was a very prolific note-writer. She would leave drawings and notes for us all around the house. One day I found a beautiful note for her sister Natty (who has Down’s syndrome), saying just how precious she was to Mia, and how her life wouldn’t be the same without her in it. It brought a lump to my throat and was a lightbulb moment for me. I realised here was the basis for the book. Mia’s words would form it’s core.” Hayley Goleniowska. Win I Love You Natty.

Jess the Goth Fairy

Illustration of Jess the Goth Fairy, holding a pile of books and smiling“Jess the Goth Fairy has learning and physical disabilities, just like the real Jess. Wings that don’t work very well, so flying is scary and landing is a nightmare! She looks different, doesn’t do pink or wear dresses. Having a normal life as a fairy is very challenging for her.

Jess just wants to be treated the same as everybody else. She wanted to put across her feelings about what happens to her, such as being stared at or not being able to do things that most people can. We hope people who will read the book will realise that it’s ok to be disabled and it’s ok to be different.” Jo, Jess’ mum. Win Jess the Goth Fairy. 

Heads up, Tim-Tron

An illustration of Tim-Tron, with a little dog“With Heads Up, Tim-Tron, we’ve tried to help parents of younger children broach this complex issue (of brain injury) in a colourful and interesting way. It’s a picture book about a little robot who bangs his head, an idea that came about after one of our clinicians compared the human brain to a cluster of tiny working circuits.

We know boys are disproportionately affected by traumatic brain injury, and a comparison with the circuits in a little robot’s brain seemed like a funny way to appeal to them (hopefully without excluding little girls!).” Ian Ray. Win Heads Up Tim Tron. 

My Big Brother Bobby

Front cover of My Big Brother Bobby, an illustration of a brother, sister and friendly-looking gremlinThis is a story about a little girl with a big imagination and an even bigger heart. She loves to play with her brother Bobby but sometimes when he gets angry, something larger than life appears.

My Big Brother Bobby is a fun, imaginative story that educates children on the importance of understanding and coping with anger in others in a warm and easy to understand way. Win My Big Brother Bobby.

The Story of Beautiful Girl

Image of the front cover of The Story of Beautiful Girl - a girl in a green dress holding out her hand and releasing a bird into the skyIt’s a stormy night in small-town America. A couple, Lynnie and Homan, have escaped from a brutal institution where disabled people are left to languish, ostracised from society. Desperate and soaked to the skin, they knock on a stranger’s door. When Martha, a retired schoolteacher, answers the door, their lives change completely. Win The Story of Beautiful Girl.

Synthesis: Weave

Front cover of Synthesis:Weave - a tree at the edge of a rocky cliff edge“Synthesis:Weave is science fiction. One of the things I dislike about the representation of disability in science fiction is the tendency to ‘gloss over’ it or ‘fix’ it.

My character was going to use his wheelchair. I know that many wheelchair users are more capable than others give them credit for and I wanted to portray that, but I didn’t want to make disability the focus of the book, so it’s just a fact – Aryx is a hero that happens to use a wheelchair.” Deane Saunders-Stowe. Win Synthesis: Weave.

The Cookbook for Children with Special Needs

Image showing what foods make up a healthy balanced diet, on a plateDeborah French is a cookery teacher and activity coordinator for disabled children and their families. She has a son on the autistic spectrum, a daughter with Down’s syndrome and young twins, and is the author of a new cookery book for disabled children.

“I wrote The Cookbook for Children with Special Needs to help children understand the origins of the food we eat, how the ingredients we use create our diet and how this affects our health and the way we feel. The opening story introduces the primary theme which is that we are all responsible for the choices we make about the foods that we eat.” Deborah French. Win The Cookbook for Children with Special Needs.

Oliver Hellowell, Wildlife & Landscape Photographer

Oliver holding a DSLR camera and smilingOliver is a young nature photographer, who happens to have Down’s syndrome.

“He takes pictures of things other people walk past because he notices the detail the rest of us miss. He sees beauty where we do not, and to a certain extent his having Down’s syndrome ‘releases’ him from the ‘rules’ and expecA close up photograph of a brown eagletations of what is perceived to be worthy of a picture, which the rest of us adhere to without even realising. Oliver makes weeds look brilliant!” Oliver’s mum

This is his first coffee table book showcasing some of his most exquisite photography. Win Oliver Hellowell’s Photography book. 

Feeling inspired? Check out our Pinterest list of books featuring disabled characters. We’d also love to hear about any other books you’d like to recommend. 

Terms and conditions

Look out for the book you’d like to win on our Twitter and Facebook throughout December. To enter this prize draw, comment/reply on the post for the book you’d like to win and tell us why you’d like to win it! Only one entry per person, per book will be counted. The prize draw closes on 18 December at 10am. The winners will be chosen at random after this date and notified via social media. Books can only be posted to addresses in the UK and no cash equivalent or alternative prizes will be offered. This prize draw is not associated with Facebook or Twitter.

 

You can light up Christmas for a family like Jenny’s

Thousands of families are expected to turn to Scope for support this Christmas, which is why we’re asking you to donate to our Light up Christmas appeal. With your help we can be there for every family who contacts us.

Jenny found out her son Harry had cerebral palsy just before Christmas. She didn’t understand his condition or how to support him. Here she explains how calling the Scope Helpline was the moment everything changed and how vital your support will be to families like hers.

Two years ago, my son Harry – who was five years old at the time – was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

Harry had been complaining of tiredness and pains in his legs. A physio told me he was a typical boy, being lazy. But I knew there was more to it.

Harry would also keep falling over, his feet turned inwards and there was other behaviour I couldn’t understand – he would have a meltdown if there was the slightest change in his routine.

Harry, playing with his toys

“I thought I’d broken my baby”

I had to fight to get an appointment with a consultant. When finally we saw him we talked for only a few minutes. He told us that Harry had cerebral palsy.

I asked, ‘what is it?’ and ‘how did it happen?’ He said I must have fallen during the pregnancy, scarring Harry’s brain . We left without any leaflets or explanations.

The information given to Jenny was incorrect. For help or information about disability please get in touch by phoning 0808 800 3333 or emailing helpline@scope.org.uk

Even though I knew I hadn’t fallen, I burst into tears. I thought I’d broken my baby.

When Christmas came, we were still in shock. Usually we’d spend the day with my mum, but instead we stayed at home on our own. It wasn’t nice.

We’d bought Harry a bike for Christmas and he didn’t want to go on it. Looking back now, I realise it wasn’t the right present, because of the pains in his legs. But we’d bought it before we understood what Harry was going through.

Calling Scope’s helpline

I’m so thankful I found Scope’s helpline number. Jackie – a Scope Information Support Worker with 17 years experience – called me back the same day.

Straight away, I realised I was talking to someone who understood. I could see a future, because Jackie could help me understand Harry’s needs and how to help him.

Ever since the day of that first emotional phone call, Jackie has been an amazing support. She understands cerebral palsy and she understands Harry. That’s invaluable to me.

With her help, we’ve adapted to Harry’s needs and so has everyone in his life. Harry is doing really well at school and we are starting to think ahead to when he moves on to secondary school.

It isn’t just Harry’s life that’s better, it’s the whole family’s. And this year, we’re really looking forward to Christmas!

Harry, celebrating Christmas with his mum

We want to be there for every single family that contacts our information and support services this Christmas.

Please give as generously as you can and light up Christmas – and the future – for a disabled child and their family.

Donate to our Light up Christmas Appeal today.

For help or information about disability please get in touch by phoning 0808 800 3333 or emailing helpline@scope.org.uk

10 Christmas present tips for parents and carers

The festive season can be a stressful time. Our online community has hundreds of practical tips to help you this season – from dealing with extended family to having days out.

Here are some of our favourite tips from the community for buying, wrapping and giving presents this Christmas:

1. Have a whip round

Friends and family never seem to know what to get George for Christmas and what they do give him nearly always ends up getting
broken or ignored. So this year I’ve suggested they contribute towards buying him a tablet, which he will definitely use. I think they’re quite relieved not to have the stress of choosing something for him.

2. Sparkly Christmas paper

For visually impaired children or those with a sensory impairment,
buy lots of sparkly Christmas wrapping paper as it’s very good for
catching and holding their visual attention. Gold, in particular, or anything with a rainbow/prism effect seems to work well.

3. A few of my favourite things

Wrap up some old favourite toys as Christmas presents if your child is not keen on opening presents as they have new and unfamiliar things in them. You can secretly hide some favourite things in the weeks leading up to Christmas – sometimes unwrapping something familiar is very reassuring!

4. Sometimes the simple things are the best

A couple of years ago we bought Reece helium balloons, and I think we spent about a tenner – and that was what he played with all day! Whereas everything else we got him, he didn’t want any of it!

5. Play with wrapping paper

Give wrapping paper to play with ahead of Christmas, cut, tear… so your child gets comfortable with the noise and look of it. Choose less
‘visually noisy’ paper and avoid patterns that can produce sensory
difficulties to your child.

disabled-girl-given-present6. Ready to go

When we give our daughter a gift, we make sure all packaging is removed, batteries are in, and it is set up ready to use as soon as she’s unwrapped it. For someone with limited attention and suspicion of new things it can make the difference between acceptance and rejection.

7. Spread out the presents

Don’t feel that all the presents have to be opened on Christmas morning in the traditional way. Our son would get so overwhelmed he couldn’t cope so it was much easier to allow him a few gifts at a time throughout Christmas Day and Boxing Day. He opened them all in the end without any tantrums and was much calmer and happier, meaning we all had a far more enjoyable time!

8. Design your own wrapping paper

Get your family to design wrapping paper. Simply buy lots of plain brown paper and allow them to have fun with paints in seasonal
colours.

Parents-with-disabled-son-unwrapping-Christmas-presents-half-size9. Opening cards and presents

My son has trouble with fine motor skills so I ‘doctor’ his cards and presents to allow him to open them easily. Makes for a much happier time for all and gives him a sense of satisfaction that he can complete tasks!

10. Don’t forget the giving

Help and encourage the person you are caring for to give gifts. This provides an excellent opportunity to work on social skills like thinking of other people, other people’s needs and interests and being kind and helpful. I support my daughter to make gifts for her family and friends. She also looks forward to actually giving out the presents as well!

Got your own tips to share? Share them on the community or let us know in the comments below.

(Photo credit: Katy Warner)

5 top tips for dealing with Christmas debt

And so begins another year. Welcome to 2014 from us here at the Scope helpline. May this year be a good one for all. Last year we saw savage cuts to the welfare state leaving our most vulnerable members of society in deep distress, anxious about their futures.

We have heard some shocking stories about how people are coping with the cuts and the challenges they’ve faced to get through each day on budgets stretched to the limit.

We wanted to turn our attention to the help available if you’re struggling with debt. At this time of year after the Christmas festivities have ended, we often look to our finances and realise that we’ve spent far too much money and have to pay it back and try to get through another year.

Here are the helpline’s top tips to help you get back on track for 2014.

1. Prioritise your outgoings

Your priority outgoings are rent/mortgage, Council Tax, utility bills and court fines. You should pay these bills first. If you are having difficulty with any of the above, please call us free on 0808 800 3333 and speak to one of our response workers or email response@scope.org.ukDon’t avoid dealing with these issues as they will get worse if left.

 2. Maximise your income

Are you getting all of the benefits you are entitled to? Try a benefits check with Turn2us – they may also be able to help you apply for other financial help.

3. Are you struggling with debt?

There are various sources of help available to help you manage your finances. You can seek help from charities such as Step Change, Money Advice Service and National Debtline. Do not pay for financial advice. There are plenty of advice agencies around who offer free advice. Avoid payday lenders who charge excessive amounts of interest and avoid debt consolidation without getting advice about this first. You can access money advice at your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau, approach your local credit union and, in some areas, your local council.

4. Emergency help

If you find that you have no money for essential bills you can apply to your local council for welfare provision payments which replaced community care grants and crisis loans in April 2013. The Children’s Society has created an online database of services in your local area. Every scheme has different criteria but would usually be considered as a last resort.

5. Fuel costs

See the pages on our website to help you tackle your fuel bills and get help to reduce large utility arrears bills – see Scope’s information on helping with fuel costs.