Polly was a busy toddler and meeting all her milestones until at 18 months she had her first seizure. We hoped it was a one off but two weeks later another followed. Her seizures then became more frequent and varied. Her development started to slow. Polly has since been through six different medications, surgery for a brain stimulation implant and a medically prescribed extremely restrictive diet yet still the seizures persist. She can sometimes have hundreds and hundreds a day. It is likely she will always have to live with seizures. Polly is now 5 and as a result of her severe epilepsy Polly also has a learning disability and many behavioural challenges. This makes many aspects of life very difficult for our family. Every single day is woven with challenges – it is exhausting.
Last summer we were feeling very anxious about the long six weeks ahead and how we’d manage day to day life without the amazing support of school. We were told about The Hollow Lane Club and offered six day-long sessions. I felt despondent about ‘sending’ Polly away from us for those days but knew that she needed the stimulation and we needed the respite. When I was sent through the timetable tears ran down my face. Tears of happiness and emotion that a group of people had put together such an incredible mix of activities. This wasn’t just colouring in – they were going to the zoo, to a trampoline park, they had a theatre company coming in to do a puppet show, Peppa Pig was visiting one day. This was above and beyond and I was blown away and so touched that so much effort and planning had gone into this, by people who clearly thought our children were as wonderful as we do. Every one of those six days Polly bolted in, barely stopping for a kiss goodbye, the staff all knew her, it felt like a second family. My heart sang.
Polly had a series of amazing experiences while we were able to have a slower day, I was able to sit in the sun and read a book with my older child, a rare and precious treat. Polly talked in the past tense for the first time after one of her days with the Hollow Lane Club and said she had seen monkeys at the zoo. The impact it had on her was clear to see.
I now no longer approach the holidays with the same sense of trepidation. I also look forward to accessing the Saturday club sessions that The Hollow Lane Club run in the future.
The kindness and warmth of the people that run and work at this club shines through – from the ambitious programme of activities to the way everyone’s eyes light up when my little girl runs towards them. Life-changing is an overused phrase but the Hollow Lane Club really is, for us and for so many families facing similar challenges.
Within the last 6 months we have taken our Social Club to a local community run café, The Snug.
Our young people benefit from being in the café as they can sit at tables with their peers and enjoy a cooked dinner. They can then go and either sit on the sofa for a chat with peers or sit with a book, the choice is theirs. They have become much more social with one another as well as making independent decisions with ordering their choice and food.
Parents and carers have told us how the young people enjoy being in a café setting and mixing with the local community. As well as the young people learning how to act appropriately within this setting, they are also learning about vital road safety skills as we walk to the café and back to our college base.
At one of our sessions, there was a group of children and young people going on trips to the town centre. It was suggested that it would be nice to take the children and young people to a restaurant. On hearing this suggestion, the parents of this young man agreed it was a lovely idea but informed staff that he was an extremely fussy eater with a limited diet and they had never been able or confident enough to eat out with him.
With careful thought and planning, we realised this young man is extremely motivated by IT/technology and this was something the Hollow Lane Club decided to use as an opening.
As the photos show he was happy to choose what he wanted to eat (in itself a big achievement) with constant reassurance and support from skilled staff. He eagerly waited for his food sat at a table with his peers.
His parents were overwhelmed and felt it had opened a new door to their family life.
I am a parent of two children that attend The Hollow Lane Club. Both children have very different personalities and needs.
K does not find it too difficult to mix and is quite sociable and outgoing, so in turn would enjoy many of the exciting activities that The Hollow Lane Club provide such as ten pin bowling, swimming, the disco, indoor and outdoor play areas.
M, however, really struggles to safely socialise and exhibits risk taking behaviours.
This can be difficult for us as parents as both children enjoy/dislike different activities. We spoke to the Club about how it was best to support us as a family. It was decided that on some days they would have both children to provide respite for us and M and K to enjoy the Club’s activities.
At other times, the Club would accommodate them separately to allow us to have quality time with them individually which would also give them respite from each other.
We feel that this is the only setting that are able to manage the needs of both children as they are so different.
Within the timetable for Summer Club there was a trip to the Aquarium.
This young man has a particular interest in fish and sea life. However, we knew the expectation of taking him to the aquarium was a huge undertaking due to his unpredictable behaviour and high levels of anxiety.
The Hollow Lane Club management liaised closely with the Aquarium who agreed for him to enter through a separate entrance at a quiet time and this was enabled by the provision of 3:1 ratio staff who also transported him separately.
As you can see, it was very successful and he even touched the tank to interact with the fish. Although it was only a short visit it was extremely worthwhile to see the enjoyment on his face. His mum was overwhelmed that this had been facilitated.
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