As I look back over the past year, the word that stays with me is ‘clear’.
It became clear that the pandemic was going to change all of us in many ways – how we live, what we value and who we most miss. It was also clear to me that we were facing the same daily challenges as those with learning disabilities – not being given sufficient time to understand or process change, not seeing friends, being stuck at home, trying to understand new social cues and behaviour, feeling forgotten or viewed as a potential risk or threat.
It also became clear that our world and the information needed to live in it was not clear, especially for people with learning disabilities. Our world was a very different place.
So, we launched a twice weekly radio show called ‘Sunny Sessions’, we shared information and shout outs, we opened an online hub with Easy Read information, we photographed people on their doorsteps so they were not forgotten, we advocated for people’s basic rights to access the same services as others, we launched zoom groups and activities to stay connected and we called those who were struggling and frightened. Day by day it became clear that although socially distanced, we were becoming closer and that we were in it together.
If the world of Covid has taught me anything, it is clear that we are all the same – with or without a learning disability. The only difference is what society expects from us and how we are treated. It isn’t the common ground that we share but the barriers that divide us.
As we move forward in this pandemic, clearly it is time to change and challenge barriers…. Is the information you provide easy to read and understand? What do you do when you see someone struggling to understand where to queue? Do you hear or witness points of views that exclude or discriminate against people with learning disabilities?
We are moving towards a new world. We are not the same as we were a year ago. Help us make these next steps accessible ones and live with inclusion at the heart of everything that we do.
What it’s like to be a woman with a Learning Disability
One of the women on the Sunnybank team who we all feel inspired by is Choices Officer, Jovi. She has achieved lots of great things, and always makes others feel uplifted and happy.
Here Jovi shares her experience of being a woman with a learning disability.
“I think it can be quite challenging being a woman with a learning disability. The disability I have (Autism/Autistic Spectrum Disorder/ASD) is often difficult to diagnose in females as the assessments are more male-based.
I get quite a lot of panic attacks when something doesn’t go right (even if it’s the smallest thing) and I have a lot of special interests that people younger than me would have (like Disney & Unicorns).
There are some positive things I do which help me to go about my day to day life. One of the things that I do is wear my Sunflower Lanyard. I make sure I wear it when I go to concerts for my favourite bands Little Mix, Rak-Su & JLS and when I go to major events such as the Summertime Ball and when I go to the airport.
It means that staff are made aware that I have a hidden disability without me having to tell them and then they try to help me in the best way possible. One time that The Sunflower Lanyard really helped was on the way back from France in 2019, I got to go in the minivan from the EasyJet plane to the terminal and then got to go through the terminal from the gate to Baggage Reclaim in one of the golf buggies!”
To mark World Book Day 2021, Sunny Sessions DJ Jon shares some of his favourite books and memories of reading with us.
I often find I can’t get into books and start a book then never return to it.
As a child I used to love Enid Blyton books such as The Secret Seven and The Famous Five. I loved how they were written and felt I was part of the adventure.
One book that really sticks in my mind from secondary school is Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry by Mildred D Taylor. This book was written in the late 70’s and is about the Apartheid (when people were segregated based on their race) in South Africa. The book tells the story of how white people were treated in a superior way to black people. It really opened my eyes to how a society judged its people and their value simply by the colour of their skin.
Thankfully we live in different times now, and value everyone equally regardless of race. The theme of the book has really stuck with me all these years later as I think its important to look to the past to learn lessons for the future.
We run two online book clubs each week for our members. Using the Books Beyond Words range, we use the pictures to make up our own stories.
If you would like to join our club, please get in touch by emailing email@example.com.
Hi everyone, my name is Angela and I’m so pleased to have joined the Sunnybank Trust.
I am an Advocacy Administrator.
I work with Annie as part of the Advocacy team, which means I get to work with a fantastic group of volunteers and also members of the community who need some extra help and support.
Advocacy means giving a voice and I have quite a loud one myself! I am often shouting for my two dogs, Ruby and Blue to stop chewing or being naughty.
I used to work for the NSPCC, a children’s charity, where I gave assemblies to children about keeping safe from abuse. That also involved using my voice to empower children.
Now I’m learning a lot about Learning Disabilities and how sometimes people can miss out on making choices and getting what they are entitled to just because they have difficulty communicating or get overlooked.
I enjoy being around people, so like everyone I have found being in lockdown hard. I am really looking forward to being able to safely meet up with all the lovely people who are part of Sunnybank.
Thank you to everyone who has made me feel very welcome and I feel very excited about all the great work we can all do together.
I like to attend as many of Sunnybank’s online activity groups as I can. My favourites are ‘Movies with Mates’ on Mondays, ‘Coffee & Chat’ on Tuesdays, ‘Drama Club’ on Thursdays and the Pub Quiz on Friday evenings. I also like to attend the monthly Swag disco and monthly Zoom party.
I also take part in a dance class which isn’t part of Sunnybank and is run by Malookoo Dance Fitness every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday (and most Wednesdays when the Sunnybank Zoom party isn’t running).
What do I enjoy most about the online groups?
I like these groups because I get to see my friends, make new friends and they’re the activities I like doing in my free time anyway (watching Films, doing quizzes and dancing).
What do I find hard about attending the online groups?
Sometimes my Wi-Fi connection can be bad, sometimes other people can be frozen on my screen, sometimes people have loud noise (TV, their parents/carers talking loudly and even kettles boiling loudly) in the background and I can’t hear other people.
To find out more about the online activities at Sunnybank, visit our lockdown hub. Our activities are for adults with learning disabilities and are free to attend.
Through the use of sensory lights, sounds and scents, care home residents with learning disabilities around North East Surrey have been enjoying an evening with a difference.
In partnership with volunteers Dick and Annette Emery, we have created a truly magical sensory garden experience, giving residents a wonderful experience to brighten up the dark evenings. There is no contact with residents making the sensory experience as covid safe as possible.
CEO of The Sunnybank Trust, Dorothy Watson commented: ‘We are very grateful to Annette and Dick. People with learning disabilities have been disproportionately affected and forgotten in this pandemic with many in lockdown since March. The Sensory Roadshow has been a fantastic way to reach those with complex needs and learning disabilities and to offer an evening of magic to reduce the high stress levels that many are experiencing’.
Those that have already had a visit from the Sensory Roadshow have described it as ‘fantastic’, ‘magical’ and ‘an evening to remember’.
If you would like to book a sensory experience for the residents of your care home this Winter, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Sensory Roadshow is free of charge, however as a charity project, donations are gratefully received.
As Winter approaches, more of us suffer from seasonal illnesses such as the common cold and flu. But what happens when you become too poorly to stay at home and need to go to hospital?
For most, being in hospital when poorly can offer a sense of relief – being in a safe pair of hands and getting the best possible care.
For someone with a learning disability, being in hospital can be a very frightening and lonely experience. We commonly see hospital patients with learning disabilities who:
don’t know why they are in hospital
haven’t had their treatment options explained to them
are unable to communicate their needs to hospital staff
have arrived at hospital without essential medications and health notes
are staying in hospital without any personal belongings such as clothing or communication aids
While these issues might heighten a patient’s discomfort in hospital, alarmingly they might also contribute to them not receiving the correct care and treatment. Something that can prove fatal in the most extreme cases.
There are a number of things that we can do to ensure that the best possible care is given whenever we visit a hospital.
Fill in your Hospital Passport
A Hospital Passport is a booklet that contains important information on existing health conditions and medications, communication preferences and limitations and other essential information.
A Hospital Passport should be taken to all appointments to assist medical staff. This Winter, our Sunnybank Advocacy team are working hard to ensure all of our members have a completed Hospital Passport.
If you don’t already have one, or if you would like some help to fill yours in, please let us know and we will try to support you.
Pack a hospital bag
Although it’s unlikely that you will need to go to hospital, it’s always a good idea to have a bag of essential items ready to grab in an emergency. Your hospital bag should be kept in an easy to remember place and should include your Hospital Passport as well as things such as pyjamas, slippers, underwear, communication aids (e.g. glasses, hearing aids, picture cards), hand sanitiser, a charged mobile phone, things that you enjoy such as a puzzle book or colouring pens and some sweets.
Having this bag ready means that you will have everything you need to make a hospital visit more comfortable.
Many of our members have recently received a ‘Sunny bag’ from the Sunnybank Advocacy team, filled with some essentials to help begin packing a hospital bag.
We’d love to hear your suggestions. What do you like to pack that makes your hospital visits more comfortable? Comment below and share your top tips.
Ask for a Learning Disability Nurse
Most hospitals have specialist nurses who support patients with learning disabilities.
Surrey Borders and Partnership have specialist learning disability nurses who work across Surrey’s five general hospitals to make sure people with a learning disability get the support they need when they visit hospital for an emergency or planned appointment.
To discuss your needs with the SABP team, you can call them on 01372 202 100 (Monday to Friday) or 0300 5555 222 for out of hours.
If you know in advance that you will be going to hospital, it is possible to ask your GP to arrange this for you. If not, your Hospital Passport will let the hospital staff know that you require this additional support.
If you find yourself in hospital this winter and aren’t receiving the care you need, please let someone know; a nurse, a carer or a member of the Sunnybank Team.
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