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Dagenham autism charity launches project for pre-school children with communication problems

PUBLISHED: 07:00 19 September 2018

Sycamore Trust UK launching the Speak With A Picture project, with patron Dame Margaret Hodge and the deputy mayor of Havering, councillor Michael Deon Burton. Picture: Ken Mears

Sycamore Trust UK launching the Speak With A Picture project, with patron Dame Margaret Hodge and the deputy mayor of Havering, councillor Michael Deon Burton. Picture: Ken Mears

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A Dagenham charity has launched a programme for pre-school children with communication difficulties.

Margaret Hodge talking to Sycamore Trust CEO, Chris Gillbanks, and support workers Cheryl Kearney and Ann Marie Lyons-Mummers who'll run the SWAP project. Picture: Ken MearsMargaret Hodge talking to Sycamore Trust CEO, Chris Gillbanks, and support workers Cheryl Kearney and Ann Marie Lyons-Mummers who'll run the SWAP project. Picture: Ken Mears

Sycamore Trust UK, which provides support for adults and children on the autism disorder spectrum, launched Speak With A Picture last week, a programme designed to improve communication in two to four-year-olds from Havering, Redbridge and Barking and Dagenham.

Friday’s launch was attended by charity staff, Barking and Dagenham’s MP, Margaret Hodge, and Havering’s deputy mayor, councillor Michael Deon Burton.

Dame Margaret, who’s been a patron of the charity for more than 15 years, said: “I’d like to congratulate the trust, the work they do is fantastic.

“From my experience as a children’s minister, early intervention is the most important. When you catch the chidren who’ve got special needs as soon as possible, and work with them, you can make all the difference to their lives as they develop. This is a really important project and the whole team is doing a brilliant job.”

Deputy Mayor of Havering Michael Deon Burton talking to Cheryl Kearney and Ann Marie Lyons-Mummers who'll run the SWAP project. Picture: Ken MearsDeputy Mayor of Havering Michael Deon Burton talking to Cheryl Kearney and Ann Marie Lyons-Mummers who'll run the SWAP project. Picture: Ken Mears

Speak With A Picture, which will have its first session on September 25, sees 10 children and parents attend weekly sessions for three months, with every other session being just for parents.

Children use cards with pictures on to indicate what they want, with the aim of building up the ability to form whole sentences.

The project is designed for pre-school children who struggle with communication, don’t speak, or show early signs of autism.

Cheryl Kearney, one of the support workers who’ll lead the sessions, said: “At pre-school there aren’t many programmes which support very young children and their families. If you’re a child and want a drink, and the only way you can tell someone that is by screaming or throwing yourself on the floor, the frustration is immense. With SWAP we’re giving them the opportunity to let mum know, I’d like a drink.

Deputy Mayor of Havering Michael Deon Burton talking to Cheryl Kearney and Ann Marie Lyons-Mummers who'll run the SWAP project. Picture: Ken MearsDeputy Mayor of Havering Michael Deon Burton talking to Cheryl Kearney and Ann Marie Lyons-Mummers who'll run the SWAP project. Picture: Ken Mears

“It’s important because pictures is the only way some children will ever communicate – some might never have speech. There’s no expectation of where they should be by the end, there’s just hope they’ll get something from it.”

Speak With A Picture is funded by a Children in Need grant, and replaces the Way to Say project, a similar programme which lost funding last year. There’ll be 10 children on September’s cohort, with funding secured for programmes for the next three years.

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