Steve Morgan Foundation Supports Stick ‘n’ Step

All of a sudden young Toby, undergoing a session of conductive education designed to improve his mobility, catches sight of the photographer.

Locking his eyes onto the lens, all of his inquisitive nature and mischievous nature comes to the fore as he delivers the broadest of smiles as the shutter goes off.

What a picture! And what a vital service 10-year-old Toby is receiving at the new Stick ‘n’ Step facility in Runcorn.

There is the fear that the distraction of the photographer is a negative for the child and skilled staff – known as conductors –  who are taking Toby and another young boy Harris through a hugely beneficial two-and-a-half hour session focused on improving a variety of their skills and movements.

Far from it.   They are thrilled to see him enjoying himself in keeping with their philosophy that learning is so much more achievable when accompanied with a relaxed atmosphere and plenty of smiles.

The Stick ‘n’ Step programme was first set up in Wallasey some 15 years ago, but their sessions, aimed to help children with cerebral palsy and their families, quickly became so successful that they have long been over-subscribed.

There was an extensive waiting list, and not enough room for all the children and families whom the charity wanted to support.

And that, as explained by Stick ‘n’ Step Chief Executive Amy Couture, is where the Steve Morgan Foundation stepped in.

“We were looking for another venue, somewhere new to help us do more of what we do,” Amy explains.

“That all co-incided with the Steve Morgan Foundation looking to finance a major project.

“I think there were a few other charities also pitching for that funding but we were delighted to be successful.

“Since then they have given us an amazing level of support.

“We managed to find this site in Runcorn and, thanks to the capital they have provided, we have a building with a fantastic design that feels so much like our other venue in Wallasey.

“There is a nice clean reception area, a staff room, a specialist bathroom and a parents room where they go and relax while the sessions are taking place.

“The funding we have received has enabled us to provide such a high quality facility that so many children and families will benefit from.

“We simply would not be sitting here today without the Steve Morgan Foundation – and we can’t thank them enough.”

Staff at the new Runcorn facility, which opened in the second week of September, 2017, are now aiming to replicate the same programme which has proved so successful in Wallasey, with the aim of increasing attendance to 60 families, within three years.

Steve has already been to visit, along with wife Sally and other trustees, to meet Amy and some of the staff and children, taking a keen interest in the sessions that take place.

What exactly then is conductive education, and how does it help so many children to improve their lives?

Over to Amy to explain.

“It is a well-established method of learning which originated in Hungary,” she says.

“It is an educational approach to help children overcome their difficulties in terms of their motor development and their learning.

“Our staff are specialist conductors, and we look to have at least a ratio of one staff member per child, especially for our youngest visitors.

“The programme focuses on many different areas for the child, from mobility to speech and cognitive learning, independence, and fine and gross motor skills.

“The children are stretching, strengthening their muscles, learning to walk without the help of mobility aids, communicating within a group.

“Each session lasts for two-and-a-half hours which can seem long for small children, but it is delivered in a fun way, through play and games.

“The children probably aren’t actually aware that they are learning via specific tasks and movements – it is all cleverly disguised where they are actually having fun!

“Often they are the only child with additional needs in their class, and just to be around others who are similar to them can boost their confidence.

“It is about helping the children to become as independent as they can be, each child has a set of personalised goals which will depend on their age and development.

“The types of tasks include; being able to use a cup, to feeding themselves, going to the toilet, getting dressed, getting their shoes and socks on.

“We had someone who came to Stick ‘n’ Step for a very long time who went off to University, and the biggest thing for him was to be able to do the buttons on his shirt.

“That was the last thing he learned so he could move away from home and not need his Mum and Dad’s daily help.

“Every child is different, with different needs, and our staff are brilliant at taking a range of children with a range of challenges and disabilities and finding the best way of helping each individual.”

Back then to Toby, who has burst into song, viewed at Stick ‘n’ Step as another integral part of the learning process.

Mum Audrey Dennison is particularly pleased at the opening of the new facility in Runcorn.

Previously, for many years, she had to transport Toby to and from the Wallasey Stick ‘n’ Step from her home in Warrington, and the distance, along with other family commitments, meant that he was unable to attend for a number of years.

Her delight is palpable at the arrival of a venue far closer to home. But with the same welcoming and supportive atmosphere.

“As soon as we came back here it felt like we were coming home,” says Audrey.

“Toby went straight in and with all the equipment he recognised it straightaway.

“He has remembered the songs and some of the exercises and met Zsoka again, who was one of the conductors at Wallasey.

“The help we have received from Stick ‘n’ Step has been so amazing, and I will always be grateful.

“When Toby was born I just felt there was nothing, no guidance, nothing telling me what to do as a parent.

“We started going to Stick ‘n’ Step and Toby took to it like a duck to water.

“I truly believe, and would say this to anyone, that without Stick ‘n’ Step Toby wouldn’t be able to sit up, push up, or roll over.

“Now you can see him, using a walker to get around, babbling away – he knows what he wants and is quite headstrong.

“I absolutely love what Stick ‘n’ Step has done for us, and would recommend it to anyone.

“I am quite gushing about it to be honest…how many times can you say ‘thank you’?”

When it comes to saying thank you, Audrey is trying to her own little bit, to give something back, by fundraising for Stick ‘n’ Step.

She has completed one of the Tough Mudder endurance challenges, and, along with her husband, forewent wedding presents in lieu of donations to the charity instead.

The vital work of Stick ‘n’ Step, and the vital backing of those such as the Steve Morgan Foundation who help finance it, has made a monumental difference to their family life.

“Thank goodness for funders and for people who see the bigger picture,” says Audrey.

“I don’t know what we would have done without Stick ‘n’ Step – we were just wallowing, and I am not sure the family unit would have survived.

“From a parent’s point of view it is hard to explain, but this place is amazing.

“All I can do is say thank you, thank you, thank you – to everyone involved, for whatever part they have played in it.”

 

* Visit https://www.sticknstep.org for more details or follow on Twitter @SticknStep1

 

 

 

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