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Autism charity successfully using video programmes to support service users across east London

PUBLISHED: 14:53 26 May 2020

Jenson Scott from Collier Row is using the Speak with a Picture (SWAP) programme designed by Dagenham charity Sycamore Trust. The programme is currently being delivered by video and helps Jenson to communicate his wants and needs. Picture: Sycamore Trust

Jenson Scott from Collier Row is using the Speak with a Picture (SWAP) programme designed by Dagenham charity Sycamore Trust. The programme is currently being delivered by video and helps Jenson to communicate his wants and needs. Picture: Sycamore Trust

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Coronavirus has forced charities to become creative about how they continue to support those who would normally engage face to face.

Jenson Scott - pictured with his sister Lily - is using the Speak with a Picture (SWAP) programme designed by Dagenham charity Sycamore Trust. The programme is currently being delivered by video and helps Jenson to communicate his wants and needs. Picture: Sycamore TrustJenson Scott - pictured with his sister Lily - is using the Speak with a Picture (SWAP) programme designed by Dagenham charity Sycamore Trust. The programme is currently being delivered by video and helps Jenson to communicate his wants and needs. Picture: Sycamore Trust

Dagenham’s Sycamore Trust – a charity dedicated to helping those affected by autistic spectrum disorders – has successfully modified its programme delivery so users don’t miss out.

One example is the Speak With A Picture (Swap) programme, which under normal circumstances would see children of pre-school age and under attend bi-weekly sessions to learn how to use symbols to communicate their wants and needs.

Because this is currently impossible, the charity’s 
Swap team – Ann Marie 
Lyons-Mummery and Cheryl Kearney – have redesigned the programme, recognising the importance of continued delivery.

Their dedication has paid off; video sessions mean that Swap users across Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge and Havering are still able to engage and benefit.

Jenson Scott - pictured with his sister Lily - is using the Speak with a Picture (SWAP) programme designed by Dagenham charity Sycamore Trust. The programme is currently being delivered by video and helps Jenson to communicate his wants and needs. Picture: Sycamore TrustJenson Scott - pictured with his sister Lily - is using the Speak with a Picture (SWAP) programme designed by Dagenham charity Sycamore Trust. The programme is currently being delivered by video and helps Jenson to communicate his wants and needs. Picture: Sycamore Trust

This comes much to the relief of Collier Row resident Hollie Scott, whose three-year-old son Jenson was enrolled in the programme before coronavirus struck.

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Jenson was referred after a protracted period in which Hollie and her husband struggled to get the right help for their son. Fortunately, despite the interruption, video delivery means the three-year-old can still progress.

“He can say a few words very clearly, like Mum and Nan.

Recently he’s been trying really hard to pronounce certain words, which he hadn’t done before.

“He’s really been helped by Makaton, which he uses when he wants food and it has helped so much with eye contact.”

Makaton – where picture symbols are exchanged for everyday items – has been used by the Swap programme since its inception in 2018.

Jenson, described by Hollie as “a bright little boy”, is also being helped by 11-year-old sister Lily who has learned some Makaton.

Such has been the success of the programme that Barking and Dagenham Council has commissioned the charity to take on more local families.

Swap support worker Cheryl says she is “delighted” by the remote delivery, applauding those who continue to engage with the programme.


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