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Luca’s Story

  • By Abi Hart
  • 23rd May 2023

We are continuing our 70th Anniversary series of blog posts by focusing on Hawthorn, our specialist nursery playroom for very young children with additional needs. We sat down with nursery staff and Shelby, whose son Luca attends Hawthorn, to hear Luca’s story and to find out how Leeds Mencap have helped his Family.

Luca’s Story:

Luca is a three-year-old boy who lives with his mum and his one-year-old sister. He joined Leeds Mencap’s mainstream nursery Jimbo’s when he was one year old and has attended Hawthorn specialist playroom since he was two years old. Luca has developmental and communication difficulties, but despite this, he is a happy, energetic, and affectionate child who loves to play outside and dance to all his favorite songs. Luca also has Pica, which means he has an urge to eat everything, even non-edible items, and a tendency to bite objects when experiencing a sensory overload. Luca also struggles with social awareness and understanding, and he often escapes and can undo locks. Despite this, he is a free spirit and is happiest when he can run free and explore.

Luca’s mum Shelby first contacted Leeds Mencap after Jimbo’s nursery was recommended to her by friends. She has also previously attended some Leeds Mencap Chats and Tots coffee mornings with other parents of early years children learning disabilities.

When Luca first started in the specialist Hawthorn room at the nursery, he seemed to enjoy it more than the mainstream toddler room that he had previously been in at Jimbo’s. He became more excited when arriving at nursery and seemed much more at ease. Luca has now developed a strong relationship with the Hawthorn staff due to the staff-to-child ratio, and he spends a lot of time with them.

Luca has made lots of improvements since starting Hawthorn. Before attending, he would not use any sort of communication, but now he pulls people to what he needs and places their hand on things to make it easier to understand what he wants. Luca also enjoys playing with others more whereas he used to prefer playing on his own. He is also sleeping much better now, and he no longer naps during the day. The staff at Hawthorn ensure they know how Luca slept the previous night and stick to no naps unless necessary so that Luca’s mother does not struggle at home.

Working with Amy, the SENCO, has also helped with Luca’s improvement. She ensures that Luca has a similar routine at home and school, to keep consistency and structure and the staff at nursery tell Luca’s mum Shelby what he enjoys at nursery so she can do the same at home. Amy also prints PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) cards for home that are the same as those used to aid communication at nursery. This makes it easier for Luca to get used to using them.

When we spoke to Shelby about her experience with Leeds Mencap this is what she had to say:

“I love the staff at Hawthorn, and I would recommend Leeds Mencap to any parent with a child with disabilities. The staff have helped me liaise with Luca’s health visitor, have begun the process of being assessed for an EHCP. They have also provided evidence and character statements about Luca to DLA, housing and offered support when going through Luca’s complex communication assessment. The staff have gone above and beyond for me, and Luca. I don’t think I would have got this far into the process of Luca’s diagnosis and getting the right support and help for Luca’s needs without the help from the Hawthorn staff.”

At Leeds Mencap we are proud that we have been supporting families like Shelby and Luca’s for 70 years and it is heartwarming to see the positive impact that our services have.

If you would like support with your child with learning disabilities then please see the “What we offer” section of our website, email info@leedsmencap.org.uk or call 0113 235 1331.

If you would like to donate to Leeds Mencap, to give children like Luca the best start in life you can do so here. https://leedsmencap.enthuse.com/donate#!/ A donation of just £20 could fund a one-to-one https://leedsmencap.enthuse.com/donate#!/ parent support session where a parent in need can receive practical advice and emotional support.

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