Stepping Stones Play And Learn Group (colchester)
Who we are
Stepping Stones Play and Learn Group is a nursery integrating children with additional needs. We have a tots group for babies with special needs and after school clubs for children with challenging needs. The group is a registered charity and non-profit making.
The group formed in 1991 to give children with special needs the opportunity to play alongside their peers, and also to give parents much needed respite care. Parents wanted a group where their child was not the only one with special needs, and where staff had knowledge that enabled them to meet the individual needs of the children. We are a parent led group and as parents have identified their own needs the group has grown to meet them.
Our age range is from 0 - 18 years, we are open five days a week and children have sessional or full day depending on the child’s individual needs and parental needs. We have a high staff ratio as our children with additional needs have a one to one key worker. This enables them to access the activities in the group. We work with outside agencies e.g. physiotherapists, speech therapist, occupational therapists. We teach all our children Makaton signing. Our children’s needs range from children with Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Down Syndrome, various syndromes which result in developmental delay, blind children, deaf children and children with little or no language skills. We have children who are hydrocephalic or who are terminally ill and who present challenging behaviours. Some children are tube fed and we administer drugs and can manage catheters and stomers. We also manage seizures.
Our aims are to create an environment enabling children to understand and tolerate each other differences, to provide play activities and equipment, enabling children to enjoy developing to their full potential. We aim to support parents, giving them practical support, listening and guiding them to the relevant outside agencies and opportunities to talk to each other. We provide an environment where outside agencies can meet, observe the children and liaise with parents, whilst the child is being cared for by staff they know. This causes less stress for parents who have to continually visit doctors, clinics etc. We work closely with the whole family.
We offer respite care through the summer break and a baby-sitting service to enable parents to have time together outside the home, it is very difficult to socialise when you have a child with additional needs, and some parents have no family nearby and can feel very isolated.
We are able to link parents together, there is much support to be gained from another parent who has experienced what you are feeling. Parents asked for the opportunity to meet other parents when they were given a diagnosis. We have a tots group in our soft play and sensory room, where parents of babies and toddlers with additional needs can meet to gain support from each other and from nursery staff. Parents can also book their baby in for up to two hours throughout the week and have a break.
We have an after school clubs for five to sixteen year olds. We have sessions for five to nine year olds and sessions for ten to sixteen year olds. The children that attend have challenging needs and we have groups of ten with eight staff. This enables them to access outside community activities such as swimming or bowling, both children and staff have great fun!
We offer respite to our parents through the long school holidays. This also enables parents to give siblings time as we have learnt often their lives have to fit round the needs of their brother or sister.
Each child needs a key worker to enable them to attend and to access activities with their peers. We need specialised equipment to help the children develop their learning and life skills. Our costs our high. We are continually raising money to meet these needs. We are very reliant on the kindness of people who raise money for us, without this support we could not provide the service our parents need.
Our group has developed in a way that we could never have planned, our parents with mainstream children continually feed back to us that they feel their children have benefited greatly by playing with children with additional needs. When a parent has a child with special needs they have to learn very quickly how to tube feed administer drugs, respond to challenging behaviours deliver all the care that their child needs. They have been our teachers and we are continually amazed at the courage our parents show.
Fundraising will always be high on the agenda and we welcome local and community groups and business to support us, enabling us to provide our much needed service.
If you are a company looking to support a small charity then please think of us as we are very keen to forge strong links with our local community and you are welcome to come and visit to see us ‘in action’ any time.Check out our website for more information –
Nursery & ASC Coordinator