Great tunes bring best mates together

Asif and Ashton’s love of music first brought them together eight years ago, and they have been best friends ever since. Every lunchtime at Sense Centre Streatley, they sit together at the piano to play and sing their favourite tunes, occasionally they dance, and always they will increasingly collapse into fits of giggles and laughter.

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A new dance landscape

Sense Arts has been exploring imaginative ways of supporting people with complex disabilities to be dance leaders in the future. To develop this, a new partnership between Sense, pioneering disabled choreographer Lisa Simpson, and dancers from InterACTION are creating a new dance landscape.

Group of people positioned in an art formation with some standing up and some sat down/ lying down.

One of the guiding principles of Lisa Simpson’s dance sessions is that there is equality between everyone taking part: between instructors and students, disabled and non-disabled. A dance session is co-created between everyone who is taking part, where each person is part of a bigger whole.

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A new door opens

Portrait of Chis Punt
Sense Watford Communication Guide

Chris Punt is a good example of someone who felt very isolated and depressed when much of her remaining sight was lost. It was a very tough time for her, but with the support of her Sense Communicator Guide she has built a new life for herself.

Some people can’t wait to retire from work, others can find this a difficult transition – especially if this has been forced upon them.

Chris had always loved her work, and the people it brought her into contact with, but suddenly this was snatched away from her. “I spent my entire life supporting children and adults with learning disabilities and mental health difficulties,” she explains. “I did so many things. I had a football team with Watford Football Club; we did a bereavement group, we did music, art and craft. I just loved it so much.”

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Time to climb again

For a long time it seemed that Tony and his mother had simply been forgotten, left without support to struggle on alone.  Tony had always been keen to try new things and build up his skills but there were few opportunities to do this.

Then a resourceful social worker found out about Sense’s TouchBase South East Centre and a new journey began for them both.

Tony standing outside his house with his mum.

“For as long as I live, I will never forget that day” says Janet. “Tony walked in the door and said to me:

“You’ll never guess what I’ve done today Mum – I’ve been rock climbing.”

When Tony was young, and could see better, he used to love climbing trees with his brother,” she says, “but I just couldn’t imagine him ever doing anything like that again.”

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Helping Annie shine

Mum and daughter playing

Five-year-old Annie has been on a difficult journey that families of a child with complex disabilities will recognise.  But in some ways, as her parents Ali and Michael acknowledge, she has been fortunate. They were able to get specialist help for her from Sense and this has made a huge difference to her life.

Sense wants all families with a child with complex disabilities to receive this level of support, and our new strategy – including the development of services and our campaigning work – aims to drive this forward.

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Peggy, Margaret and Jessica – three Sense pioneers

Sense is a unique national organisation. It serves people with complex  disabilities, including deafblindness, and has developed unrivalled skills and experience in this area.

But it has also been shaped by broader changes and developments in society – such as changing attitudes towards disability and the role of women.

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Band of brothers and sisters

Little girl climbing up frame

Children who have a disabled sibling may have to learn to put their own needs on hold to some extent – but the Sense Siblings Weekend was just for them.When the children and young people arrive for the siblings’ weekend some look a little wary and there are even a few tears; others give barely a backward glance and get stuck right in away, rushing over to the painting activity and making instant new friends in the way that only children can.

They have all come away for a weekend of fun, friendship and adventure at a PGL centre near Swindon – and what they have in common is that they all have a brother or sister who has a disability. Having a sibling with special needs can be a mixed role, and whilst Sense’s experience is that many will grow up to be particularly kind, thoughtful and mature people – and love their disabled sibling to bits – they can face challenges too.

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