Footprints CEC Conductive Education Centre) has been a lifeline for families of disabled children across the East Midlands – and beyond – for almost 40 years.
Now, it is battling to stay afloat after experiencing a 40% funding loss since the coronavirus pandemic began.
The centre provides weekly sessions for families of children with mobility or communication difficulties, teaching them everyday life skills that are often taken for granted such as eating and walking.
One family that has been touched by the Nottingham-based charity’s services is the family of 19-month-old Jesse, who has many health conditions that affect his development.
Mum, Beth Fisher, had been attending Footprints conductive education centre with Jesse for nearly a year when the pandemic forced its closure.
Jesse was born prematurely at 31 weeks. As a result, he was very ill, having a collapsed lung at one-day-old. Jesse’s family were told shortly after that he had ‘Periventricular leukomalacia (PVL)’ – a type of brain injury that causes damage to the white matter of the brain, most common in premature babies. They were told before birth and in the first few days that he might not survive, but he continued to go from strength to strength and was discharged after spending the first four weeks of his life in hospital.
Doctors said that Jesse was likely to have several physical and learning difficulties and may have epilepsy. It was also said to be possible that he would have cerebral palsy, and he was recently formally diagnosed with the condition that affects his movement, coordination and sight.
Jesse’s development is delayed, and he is just learning to sit on his own at 19 months – something that is often done by babies between six to eight months. It is unclear if he will ever be able to walk and, if he does, he may need some form of walking aid.
Jesse was attending Footprints weekly where he works on his mobility and communication, as well as learning things other children would generally pick up naturally.
Beth said: “Footprints is a place of physical, emotional and social support for children and parents of disabled and special educational needs children.
“Through the weekly sessions, I’ve made great friends who understand how it feels to raise a disabled child. It can be difficult to go to regular baby groups where other children are all developing neurotypically and can all do the same things, so having other parents to relate to who understand how you feel means the world to us.
“At Footprints, Jesse gets the opportunity to work on everyday skills such as rolling over, standing and learning to turn pages in a book.
“Through the programme and conductive education classes, we can monitor things such as how he responds to certain activities like reaching or using his hands and put these ideas into practice at home. The weekly sessions are amazing because he learns by repetition – he knows what’s coming and he learns what to do next time.
“The sessions are very social, and since the temporary closure of the centre we have missed the simple things like sitting with the other families to have a snack, and just the support that being at the centre gives us as a family.
“It would be more than a massive disappointment for the children and their families if the centre had to close, it’s our children’s development which is at risk. We have come to rely on the centre and there aren’t many other places like it, certainly not in our area, we don’t know where else we would go to help Jesse.
“I can’t thank the Footprints team enough for the way they have supported me and Jesse – it’s life changing. I sincerely hope they are able to secure more funding to help the centre reopen in due course.”
Nathalie Bailey-Flitter, manager at Footprints CEC, said: “Despite the pandemic, we have seen some incredible support from the public and our ambassadors. We’ve been humbled by those trying really hard to fundraise and putting themselves out there to help us survive. We have a 40 year history of successful conductive education and we dedicate our services to people like Jesse and Beth.
“It’s heart-breaking to think that we may have to rethink our strategy to survive, possibly making some difficult choices regarding our services. We desperately need more people to support us, particularly through annual corporate partners as that length of kind support helps us forward plan financially and helps us ensure we help as many families as we can.”
Footprints currently support 60 families and must raise a minimum of £17,000 a month to survive.
If you would like to support the charity, you can donate to its Keep Footprints Afloat campaign: http://bit.ly/KeepFootprintsAfloat
For more information, please contact Eloise Cantello at Jennie Holland PR on 0115 998 3048 or [email protected].
About Footprints CEC
Founded by a group of parents in 1981, Footprints CEC’s mission is to provide conductive education and other services to help children with mobility and communication problems develop the skills they need to thrive and achieve their potential. It is committed to creating a safe, positive, supportive and fun environment where parents receive practical assistance, information and training to help them support their child in their own home.
The charity must raise a minimum of £17,000 a month to provide Conductive Education and support services.
• £3,300 will transform the lives of parent and child, giving practical advice and emotional support to one of the families for one year
• £1,000 will purchase low and high technology communication aids and sensory toys
• £500 will provide new supplies of books to support specialised pre-reading, and writing skills work
• £100 purchase materials for topics each term: colours, the weather, where people work, things that move.
• £85 will give a parent hope by providing a single parent and child session for a new family.
• £25 buys a supply of bubbles, chewy tubes, and other equipment to help with our speech therapy project for children with Down’s syndrome.