As half-term approached, it was time for VICTA’s fourth annual Early Years Weekend. We were thrilled to welcome 14 families to New College Worcester, each with a visually impaired child aged 0-5. For 10 of these families, it was their first ever VICTA activity, so it’s brilliant to see our work is still reaching new people from across the country.
Once everyone had settled in and enjoyed a hearty lunch, it was time for some family fun activities, to help everyone get to know each other. We were thrilled to welcome back Rebound Therapy, which teaches important physical and communication skills on a trampoline. We also had African Drumming, which enabled children (and parents!) to make a lot of noise, and have a lot of fun in the process.
After dinner, everyone made the most of the New College library, and spent the evening socialising, playing and making new friends.
On Sunday, children were dropped off bright and early to the VICTA crèche. It was filled with toys, craft equipment and a huge soft play area – everything you need to keep under 5’s occupied for a few hours!
In addition to this, due to its success last year, we had Angie’s Animal Antics visit again. The children left the crèche in small groups to cuddle and feed the animals, which included a chinchilla, bearded dragon, frog and millipede. As all of the animals had a different texture and feel, it was a great sensory activity.
While the children were looked after by our fabulous volunteers, the parents had workshops run by Wendy Sainsbury and John Turnbull from Guide Dogs, and Janet Harwood from the CVI Society. Wendy has spent many years working in the field of visual impairment and has supported over 8,000 families. She was able to share her great insight and wealth of knowledge with our parents. John is a QTVI and so was a very valuable speaker, as many of our parents are preparing for school placements, EHCPs and more. Janet ran a ‘real life experience’ for parents, helping them to better understand their senses. She looked at practical strategies to avoid ‘sensory overload’ and shared ideas to make sensory play and stories meaningful and fun.
After lunch, there was time for parents and children to relax and have fun together. The soft play, bouncy castle and craft table were big hits! We also had a visit from ‘Seeing the Sound’. They specialise in stories for visually impaired children that don’t require audio descriptions. This was enjoyed by all, and will be a great resource that parents can access online at home.
After dinner, it was time for everyone to hit the road and head home. We all had a wonderful weekend, and we’re sure lasting friendships were made that will offer support and encouragement for years to come. Invaluable advice was given by our visiting professionals and other parents that will help families adjust to life with a visually impaired child, and hopefully not feel as alone as they did before. As always, we’d like to give a big thank you to our volunteers, without whom this weekend wouldn’t have been possible.
By Felicity Poulton
Lead Activities Coordinator