Harefield Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - By VICKY MUNRO vicky,munro@reach­ @vick­y_afm

TWO Hilling­don mums, both who have a child with cere­bral palsy, are fundrais­ing to start a playgroup for dis­abled chil­dren.

Leanne Wil­son-Ste­fanovic, 29, who gave birth to mir­a­cle baby and now thriv­ing two-year-old Is­abella at just 25 weeks, wants to start the group with Emma Ough, 36, mother of Rad­den, af­ter they bonded in hospi­tal over their chil­dren’s sim­i­lar health com­pli­ca­tions.

They have so far fundraised £2,100 for Lit­tle War­riors Fight­ing Big Bat­tles, but hope to raise even more in or­der to af­ford spe­cial­ist equip­ment to ac­com­mo­date chil­dren with a num­ber of dif­fer­ent needs.

Leanne said: “Emma wanted to do this be­cause there is not enough out there for dis­abled pre-school chil­dren and she asked me to join her. We don’t want our chil­dren to have to miss out and stay at home, es­pe­cially as so­cial­is­ing is such an im­por­tant skill in life.

“We’re re­ally just two nor­mal mums thrown into a jour­ney of dis­abil­ity who want to do some­thing for our chil­dren and other fam­i­lies’ chil­dren.

“Me and Emma had met in hospi­tal in early preg­nancy be­cause we were both hav­ing com­pli­ca­tions, but we didn’t think we would ever see each other again.

“Then, sev­eral months later, we met again in the neona­tal unit be­cause Rad­den had just been born and was in the in­ten­sive care unit and Is­abella was go­ing for brain surgery be­cause she had hy­dro­cephalus (a con­di­tion where there is an ac­cu­mu­la­tion of cere­brospinal fluid within the brain, caus­ing in­creased pres­sure in­side the skull.)

“I couldn’t be­lieve I saw her and then when she said Rad­den had the same prob­lems I sunk to the floor, it was al­most like destiny had put us to­gether. Af­ter that we all be­came very close.”

Both Is­abella and Rad­den suf­fer from cere­bral palsy, along with other se­vere dis­abil­i­ties, with symp­toms in­clud­ing poor co­or­di­na­tion, stiff­ness, weak mus­cles and tremors.

Leanne added: “Be­cause our chil­dren are at slightly dif­fer­ent stages, I could be a sup­port to Emma and she has been a huge sup­port to me. We pick one an­other up. When she’s hav­ing a hard time she will mes­sage me and I do the same.

“That’s ac­tu­ally an­other rea­son why we feel so strongly about do­ing this, so that fam­i­lies who have no­body like that can meet other par­ents who un­der­stand. It can be hard some­times be­cause your other friends just can’t un­der­stand.

“Leanne’s now com­ing to the age where she wants to play, but she’s very be­hind the other chil­dren and nor­mal groups are not al­ways ben­e­fi­cial to her. Chil­drens’ cen­tres may say ‘just come’ be­cause they don’t dis­crim­i­nate, but par­ents will still stare and ask ques­tions.

“It’s nice to have some­where to go that’s just chil­dren with sim­i­lar ca­pa­bil­i­ties and par­ents who un­der­stand. I’d still take her to other play­groups as well, but if we could open just once or twice a week it would be great.

“We’ve al­ready got a venue for free for a few months, but we still need to raise funds be­cause we want to buy spe­cial­ist toys for the chil­dren like crash mats and spe­cial equip­ment.

“Once we’ve raised the money we will talk to in­ter­ested par­ents about what they want. We don’t want to just buy spe­cial­ist toys that will meet our kids’ needs so we will need ideas from them.

“Af­ter that we’re hop­ing to open in Jan­uary, but we’re not go­ing to put too much pres­sure on our­selves as we’re both car­ing for se­verely dis­abled chil­dren af­ter all.”w

Leanne Wil­son-Ste­fanovic (left) and Emma Ough with their chil­dren and the Hilling­don mayor at a re­cent fundraiser

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