Francesca Williams on out-of-school activities for children with special needs
Time Out Bahrain staff
Since we’ve got a bit of a kids theme going on this month, we chatted to Francesca Williams, co-founder of Little Acorns which has just started offering out-of-school activities for children with special needs.
When did Little Acorns start and what does it do?
We started in May 2013, and from July we’ll be offering summer camps for special needs children. In the future we hope to offer after-school programmes and playgroups.
Do you only deal with special needs children? Yes, I work with special needs children in homes who have behavioural or learning difficulties helping them to progress through a range of sensory, literacy and numeracy skills to be able to work as independently as possible within a learning environment.
What made you decide to set up Little Acorns? There’s nothing else like it in Bahrain and it made me sad when parents did not know how to help their child in fun, educational ways. As they wanted a secure environment with constant supervision and understanding of a special needs child, I felt it was important that children with special needs had the same opportunities as every other child.
What’s your background in special needs education? I have worked in the UK and Bahrain as a teacher from infants up to senior school level, especially concentrating on children with behavioural problems, autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia and Down’s Syndrome. I also have worked in rehabilitation centres for young children in Australia while I was still at school, through summer camps and weekend activity trips with rural and city youth centres and homes.
How does teaching a child with special needs differ from working with mainstream children, have you done both? Yes, I have done both. A special needs child needs a lot more individual attention and care than a mainstream child. As a special needs educator you need patience and to accept that one way does not work for every child but a range of methods may be the answer in a very short period. Progress can be slower to come but what a fantastic feeling when you achieve it, no matter how small it may seem!
What can kids expect to experience at the upcoming Little Acorns summer camp? At the camp the children can expect to be working on a range of activities that can continue to develop sensory integration, social interaction, language and numeracy development, communication and personal help skills, creative and sports activities and making new friendships. We are delighted that we have a qualified music and sports specialist who will be able to offer workshops in a range of areas suitable for all ages. It’s very important to continue learning for a special needs child, as two months off is a very long time!
Are there a lot of special needs children in Bahrain and how are the facilities for them? Yes, there are a lot of children, more than many people realise. However, there are many wonderful people working to support each of these amazing children. There are facilities but very few at present but hopefully with continuous development and support from many people it can only get better. Companies and businesses will try to support initiatives in the best way possible!
Anything else you want to add? I understand there have been some reservations about the cost of our camp but we want to provide trained and/or experienced British staff with British Makaton experience for our camps and after-school programmes so our costs are more expensive than others on the island. For more information check out www.littleacorns.me.