Growing in confidence: with a Sense volunteer Buddy.

Two ladies smiling at the camera and one lady has one hand in the air.

Laely’s confidence to communicate and connect with the world is coming on leaps and bounds, thanks to Jenny, her volunteer Sense Buddy.

Laely is non-verbal and uses facial expressions, gestures, vocalisations and picture symbols to express herself.

Since joining the Sense Buddying scheme, Laely has developed a trusting, supportive friendship with her Sense Buddy.

Jenny has become an expert in Laely’s communication methods. They share many lovely moments of connection and plenty of giggles. Drawing together has become a unique means of conversation between the two, with Laely and Jenny taking turns to add to a picture before Laely proudly shows off the finished piece.

Laely’s school reported that she didn’t integrate much with other children or staff. But in her buddying sessions, Laely became curious and more confident in interacting with other children. A milestone moment came when Laely chose to sit in the sandpit near some children and copied their sandcastle building.

With the support Jenny provided her, Laely became more communicative, regularly making requests with her symbols without any prompting, and choosing activities she wanted to pursue.

Jenny felt it would increase Laely’s independence and access to opportunities if she was able to make requests of people in her local community, e.g. using a symbol to request ‘swimming’ at the leisure centre. Over 6 months, Laely and Jenny worked on this goal together.

At first, Jenny supported Laely to show her ‘swimming’ symbol at the leisure centre desk, and supported staff to understand that Laely was making a request by doing this – some staff at the leisure centre were quicker at understanding this than others!

Laely is now able to consistently and confidently request swimming at her local pool using a picture symbol, showing her membership card and handing over money herself. Her new confidence in her independence has shown in other ways – Jenny reports that Laely is now showing increasing independence tidying things into her swimming bag and putting her belongings into a locker.

Having had such great success at the pool, Jenny is now supporting Laely to use her picture symbols to make requests in other contexts – Laely is increasingly confident requesting the drink or snack she wants when at a café by choosing and handing over the right symbol, for example.

As she gains confidence trying new activities, Laely is also making an increasing range of requests for different activities during her sessions. Together, Laely and Jenny have ridden a pedalo, visited the aquarium (a new favourite for Laely), visited a range of new museums, tried bowling and taken part in a drumming workshop – Laely can be very sensitive to sound and Jenny was amazed by how much Laely enjoyed this!

Victoria Park in East London has become a firm favourite; and when Laely chose to take her mum there, she was able to confidently lead the way. Another milestone moment!

Being able to communicate her choices has opened up so many new opportunities for Laely, and empowered her to make decisions about her own life.

About Sense Buddying

Sense Buddying is a pioneering new programme, which enables children and young people with complex sensory and communication needs to ‘buddy’ up with their non-disabled peers and develop friendships through shared interest and hobby.

For example, in Tower Hamlets, East London almost 40 disabled young people are being empowered weekly to try new activities, make friends, develop skills and form connections in their local community – all through volunteer-led buddying sessions. In 2017-18, young people and their Sense Buddies shared a total of 3,570 buddying hours.

With its roots entwined in social action, the programme has made a miraculous impact on the lives of the young people, reducing social isolation and building confidence.

  • 100% of participating parents said their child’s wellbeing has improved due to increased social networks and opportunities to try activities.
  • 100% of children said their sessions were ‘lots of fun!

Find out how you can Volunteer to become a Sense Buddy below.

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