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Gracie’s Story

  • By Abi Hart
  • 23rd June 2022

Monday the 20th of June marks the start of Learning Disability Week 2022. Here at Leeds Mencap, supporting young people with learning disabilities and their families to be included and to achieve what they want out of life is at the absolute heart of everything we do. It is so rewarding to support children and to enable them to thrive in an environment where they are free to be themselves and not be defined by their learning disability.

One such child is Gracie. Gracie and her mum Sophie have been accessing Leeds Mencap services for over a year now. Gracie is a wonderful little girl who has a learning disability and communication difficulties. Gracie attends Jimbo’s Nursery, and is a member of Hawthorn – our specialist playroom, where our attentive staff are well-trained to meet her additional needs and offer personalised support for her development. Since she has started attending our nursery, Gracie has developed in many areas.

When she first started, Gracie wasn’t eating, sleeping or drinking properly and she also didn’t enjoy communicating with other children or having them in her space. However, now she sits with other children contently and eats small amounts of food she likes which in Sophie’s words is a “big improvement”. Gracie also initially struggled with change of routine and separation anxiety. However, since working with our nursery staff she has got through this hard time and now looks forward to going to nursery and enjoys her time there.

As well as attending our specialist nursery, Sophie and Gracie have also attended our weekly stay and play coffee morning sessions, run by our friendly family support worker. These sessions have provided Sophie with the opportunity to meet other parents with shared experiences of having a child with additional needs and to receive advice and support in a welcoming and safe environment.

In addition to this, Sophie has also worked with our family support worker to apply for funding and benefits including disability living allowance. This has helped Sophie with the financial pressures of caring for Gracie and has enabled her to buy specialist toys and equipment. Our family support worker has also provided advice and support on behaviour management, communication and sleep and Sophie was able to attend a five-week course focused on establishing healthy sleep routines for Gracie.

“Ruth has helped us with countless referrals and has constantly chased things up. As a family support worker she really goes above and beyond and is brilliant at helping solve problems, listening without judgement and making sure you always know help is there if you need it.

The people here are amazing and well educated at what they do and I couldn’t have chosen a better nursery to help support my daughter. They have a soft play area and sensory room for when things get overstimulating and they host lovely family friendly events that cater to all needs. Leeds Mencap have really gone above and beyond for us and I fully appreciate all the additional support they have given me to make sure that Gracie has a positive experience at nursery, surrounded by people who understand and can meet her needs. I also fully appreciate everything they have done to support her outside of nursery. I would recommend them to anyone who feels like their children may need additional suppor
t” .- Sophie (Gracie’s mum)

I am writing to you to tell you how rewarding it is to see children like Gracie grow and develop due to having specialist support and care tailored to their individual needs. It is your donations so far that have made it possible, but we still need your help as each year we have hundreds of children with learning disabilities that rely on our support.

This year we are hoping to raise £1000 as part of our Learning Disability Week campaign, which aims to shed light on living life with a learning disability and to show how people with learning disabilities are coming together and reconnecting with their communities.

We greatly appreciate any amount that you can contribute, and any donation big or small really does make a tangible, positive difference. Here’s what your donations could do:

  • £5 could provide coffee and cake for a family support session for a family who have lost hope and need a friendly, listening ear.
  • £25 could provide a weighted toy that will soothe an anxious young child and help them to focus on the positives around them.
  • £100 could pay for a Makaton tutor to teach parents some basic signs so that they can understand and communicate with their non-verbal child.
  • £200 could pay for a group of young adults with a learning disability to go bowling together, giving them an opportunity for personal independence and socialising

You can donate online here or you can donate via phone by calling 0113 235 1331

By choosing to support our Learning Disability Week Campaign, you will be supporting the development of numerous children like Gracie, allowing them to get the best possible opportunities that they can in life.

Thank you!

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