Daisy and Lucy have become great friends while at the Mencap Children's Centre and always say hello to each other in the morning.
The two girls gravitate towards each other all the time, if there is a line for singing, soft play or puppet time they will always move towards each other and play together. In the nursery the children enjoy the soft play area, sign and singing classes, story time, and playground games.
The biggest changes in the children since they started at the Mencap Children's Centre are their communication and mobility skills.
Lucy was only crawling when she started and then used a walking aid, which made all the difference as she could then go over to Daisy whenever she wanted. Now they can both run to each other and play together more.
Communication skills with learning new words or makaton signs really helps their friendship’s and their communications skills have improved so much that they can have a friendship with each other, they happily say this is my friend or make the Makaton sign for friends, which is holding the two hands together.
Friendships are important to the children. It’s a little bit of security for the children to have a friend, they see each other as the same, using the same sign language and other skills they have learned.
The children mostly communicate using Makaton sign language for children who cannot speak very well along with a few words and the friends help each other to communicate.
Communicating is a huge barrier for children with a learning disability – some are still very introverted and shy or have no real awareness of other children around them. So they have really started to come out of their shells and interact with others. Having a friend gives you that support and confidence to go on to new schools and meet new people.
One day Lucy hurt herself and was crying and suddenly Daisy straight over to her, and just like we would do as adults comforting her, stroking her hair and making sure they are both ok. They both sing to each other the rhyming song ‘Friends’.
The Mencap Children's Centre works in partnership with the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.