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Children's sessions offer a lifeline for families

When local mum Maria Belton was told her little boy had Down’s Syndrome and was presented with ‘a list of things he’d never be able to do’, she turned to her local children’s centre for support.

From Bromborough, Maria and her husband Neil have three children, Ellie 15, Joey 3 and Nancy 1. Both Joey and Nancy were born with Down’s Syndrome and Maria describes how when she felt the family were told nothing but negatives about their children, it was a struggle to find the support they needed.

A friend of Maria’s told her about a local Makaton session at Seacombe Children’s Centre. Run by local charity Sundowns, Makaton sessions teach signs and symbols to children and adults who may have communication difficulties. Signs are taught using games, activities and songs with lots of repetition and anyone families are welcome to go along, not just those who have trouble with communication.

Wirral’s children’s centres offer a variety of classes to help parents and their little ones develop skills and have fun, but for some parents, groups at the centres become more than that.

Maria said: “Finding the local Makaton group was an absolute lifeline for us, Joey and now Nancy. The support you get from the group is just amazing – it’s like one big family. It gives us the chance to share experiences with parents in the same situation and see how well their children who also have Down’s Syndrome are doing.”

The busy mum of three had this advice to any parents thinking about going to a class at a children’s centre:

“Coming to the Makaton group has helped me and my family beyond words. I’d say to anyone who’s considering going to a group at a children’s centre that I know it can be daunting but just take the step and do it,” said Maria.

“You’ll meet so many other parents and the support you get is just brilliant. The kids absolutely love going.”

Joey’s progress was so great that even though Maria and Neil were told he would never walk, this year the dad and lad took on a 130 mile walking challenge for charity.

Over seven days, Neil alternated between carrying Joey and letting him walk around the Anglesey coast. The dynamic duo raised more than £3,000 for Sundowns’ annual family retreat to Ribby Hall.

There are plenty of classes and groups across Wirral’s children’s centres. To find out more visit the My Child Can Facebook page or visit wirral.gov.uk/cc.