Spe­cial teen is nom­i­nated

Cre­ator of chil­drens’ club up for Lon­don Young Peo­ple prize

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS - By Steve Bax steve.bax@trin­i­tymir­ror.com

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

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