Together 21 provides a wide range of fun learning activities to help children and young people, aged 0 – 17 with Down Syndrome to develop key skills.
The activities provide the opportunity to build friendships within peer groups as well as support their development in reaching their full potential. This is a chance for parents to get to know each other, providing a vital friendship and peer support network for families.
Over the last 18 months Together 21 have been adapting to learning from home. The children and young people have reached incredible milestones that have been shared on the Together 21 social media pages.
As we prepare to head back into the centre we'd like to celebrate Together 21 with some wonderful stories from some of the members.
"We joined the project when Emma was seven years old. We had just arrived in County Durham from the Republic of Ireland and we didn't know anyone. We joined in order to meet other families in the area who had children with Down syndrome. We heard about the project from Emma's primary school teacher. Emma has Down’s syndrome and various learning difficulties and health difficulties linked to the syndrome. Her parents are her carers and we take it in turns to bring Emma to Together 21. We have no local support from our family so Together 21 has been absolutely essential as a support group for Emma and for us. Emma is now 15 years old, so we have been going for nearly eight years.
When we lived in the Republic of Ireland, we were part of a similar support group however when we moved to the UK we didn't know anyone in a similar situation. Things were quite difficult when we moved to the UK because we had to organise all kinds of things to do with our daughter Emma and this group was a fantastic help. Emma has made brilliant friends through Together 21 - we feel they will be friends for life. Emma has gained great confidence through the activities and the friendships she has made in this group.
As her parents, we have gained fantastic support from the Together 21 team and the parents of other children who attend. It is through them that we have found out about how to access benefits, support for health issues and what to say and do to get the best out of school and education/ healthcare plans. Everyone in this group is going on the same journey or a similar one to us. We in turn have been able to give advice and support to others in the group. Our confidence as advocates for our daughter has definitely increased, because of the contacts we have made by being part of this group.
I can say that one key benefit is that Emma now attends an excellent special school as a secondary pupil and it is through suggestions made by parents and staff at Together 21 that she ended up at this school. Emma herself has gained great confidence through the activities she does in Together 21 with its focus on life skills. Life skills are so important for children with Down’s syndrome and developing them in a secure, positive environment is exactly what Together 21 provides.
Everything that Together 21 does is really focused on supporting our children with Down’s syndrome and all that that means. It's really important to stress however, that Together 21 is not just an unstructured play opportunity for our children. Everything the children do, although it might seem like play, is actually about supporting their development and learning."
"Our daughter Ella has Down Syndrome. She has been attending since she was 9 months old when the group was ECCDS then became T21 so has attended for 7+ years
As a family we joined for friendship and to help our daughter progress. We heard about the group from other parents at a DSNE conference.
When the group was taken on as a project within PCP, we were very relived as T21 and all the children, families and staff have become like family.
We have formed friendships that I’m sure will continue throughout life.
We have gained so much knowledge on how people with Down Syndrome learn and strategies on how to help Ella.
Before finding the project, we felt a bit lost not having anyone we knew with young children with down syndrome so it was a relief to find people on the same journey who could help and share experiences.
Ella has benefitted immensely from attending group she is more confident and able to join in with activities sharing and waiting her turn. As Ella’s Mum I have also learned a lot on how to guide and encourage Ella with the tasks they plan.
The friendship and support we get from other parents whose children attend the group is invaluable when you can talk to someone who knows exactly what challenges you are facing and how they coped we can share advice and support each other. Our confidence has improved loads with help from other parents with regards to getting the correct help and support for Ella in school."
To find out more about Together 21, connect with them on Facebook.