Special teen is nominated
Creator of childrens’ club up for London Young People prize
AN UXBRIDGE teenager who created a sensory group for children with special needs has been nominated for an award.
Stephanie Bayford, 18, of Sutton Court Road, founded the Little Specials Saturday club at the Oak Farm Library in Uxbridge, which is attended each week by around a dozen youngsters with learning difficulties.
She was nominated for a London Young People of the Year ( YOPEY) award by a former school friend, Maddie Hayward, in recognition of the contribution she has made to lives of disabled children in the borough.
Maddie said: “Stephanie set up Little Specials for children with special needs or illness. She supports the parents and does her utmost to make everyone happy.
“She is an inspiration to me and many others so I knew I had to nominate her. She is only 18 years old and is already trying to help people so much.”
Stephanie began volunteering while in Year 10 at Bishopshalt School, helping at a residential school for visually impaired children in Northwood. Then she volunteered at Moorcroft Special Needs School in Uxbridge which grew into an apprenticeship after she left school.
She is now a Learning Support Assistant there and uses some of her salary to supplement Little Specials. Stephanie got the idea when a friend remarked that there was nowhere locally for her child with special needs to play with others.
She said: “There are places for some young children with autism but not for those with Crohn’s, cerebral palsy and Downs which are all different conditions so I decided to set one up. The children learn from me, and I learn from them. It is hugely rewarding, I can’t explain how rewarding it actually is.”
Stephanie visited Oak Farm Library and enquired about the use of its hall. She then saved up for several months to buy the toys needed.
Little Specials opened in February 2014 and through word of mouth and social media it has attracted around a dozen children and parents.
“That is perfect number for us, in a safe and secure environment where they feel happy and relaxed, learning new things. Some of our children are Down’s, have cerebral palsy, autism and dyspraxia, some have heart or liver conditions,” said Stephanie.
She runs the group with her mum Sharon, who has worked with special needs children for a number of years and thinks it may have rubbed off on her daughter.
Hillingdon-mum Sherry Bickle, whose six-year-old Callum attends Little Specials, said: “Callum loves it and looks forward to it, and so does his three-year-old sister Cathy. All the special children seem to understand each other and he has made some friends there.
“It is also nice for me too, there are always different people and we parents can meet up and sometimes we get together outside Little Specials too. Stephanie and her mum are so understanding. They are always coming up with new ideas for the children.”
Stephanie stands to win £500 if she wins her YOPEY category.
For more on the awards including how to nominate a young person, go to yopey.org.
n SUPPORT: Stephanie Bayford, front row wearing the Santa hat, with children and parents at the Little Specials Saturday club