2020 has been a year of challenges. With children, parents and staff alike facing unprecedented circumstances at home as well as in our centres, Welcare staff have had to be adaptive and innovative to continue providing support to those who need it.
In East Surrey, playworker Hina has managed to adapt her usual group programmes into 1:1 sessions with parents/carers and their young children. These regular groups include ‘Every Child a Talker’ – for children with a speech delay; ‘One Step at a Time’ – for children with additional needs; and ‘Mummy and Me’ for mums suffering from isolation or Post-natal depression. With social distancing measures in place, some rethinking had to be done…
Instead of running one group session in a day, Hina switched to holding several individual sessions. Aside from the extra time involvement, this move necessitated extra discipline in practical measures. For example, cleaning all surfaces and making sure equipment has been disinfected before use. This includes tables and chairs, but also toys and sensory equipment used for activities in the sessions. Every Child a Talker uses props such as pom-poms, bubbles, feathers, straws and whistles to encourage communication and expression.
“I made individual bags of activities for each session, and labelled them after use with quarantine date, so that we could clean and then leave 72 hours between each usage,” explains Hina. “We also had to be more careful than usual with equipment in the sessions themselves – for instance, to avoid contamination, using one colour pom-pom for mums and children, and another colour for me.”
Hina found there were unexpected advantages to these individual sessions. For instance, in a 1:1 interaction, she was able to focus on the individual needs of each child much more closely than in a group, and also carry learnings from one session to the next. “Obviously, outside of a group session, children are unable observe their peers’ behaviour and interact as they usually would. But on the other hand, I could really work on what each child specifically needed… focus on understanding vs articulation for instance, or specific concerns from the parent or carer.”
In the sessions, as the main focus is communication, Hina was unable to wear a mask, as children need to be able to see her face for cues. “I’d worried that parents would be reluctant to come, or would feel uncomfortable,” says Hina, “… but they weren’t at all. The parents and carers we saw were really relieved that we’d found a way to keep running the sessions.”
With many families feeling isolated during lockdowns and social distancing this year, Hina found that visitors were grateful for the one-on-one nature of the meetings. “Parents could open up more than usual in the more personal setting too.”
From early 2021 onwards, if restrictions allow, Hina says she would like to combine parents and children in smaller groups of just 2 or 3, to get the best of both worlds, all the while maintaining the high standard of safety and planning. “It’s always in the back of your mind what you might be taking home. We took so much for granted before, and now things just have to be planned out step by step.”
For more information about the work we do in East Surrey, see our East Surrey Centre page, or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.