Good evening everyone. I am not great with public speaking so please bear with me! My name is Sumayya, and my daughter Safiya and I have been attending Playskill for just under a year. So just to give you a little background about Safiya… After an uneventful pregnancy, Safiya was born in a poor condition, and had suffered a hypoxic injury to the brain during labour. The doctors told us that she had suffered global brain damage as a result. At a week old, we were told the worst, but fast forward nearly two years and she has grown up to be a bright, determined and happy little girl, who despite her challenges, has brought so much joy to our lives. Being on this journey and being a special needs parent has been rewarding, satisfying and has given me a whole new perspective on life. I never thought I would appreciate things like coughing or smiling or looking as much as I do! As well as this, I have learnt so much about different fields that, as an economics teacher, I never thought I would encounter. Neurology, physiotherapy, occupational therapy… the list goes on!
However, being a special needs parent also comes with its challenges; it can be exhausting, absolutely terrifying at times, and exceptionally lonely. For me personally, this is where Playskill has made the biggest impact on my life. The social aspect of Playskill, talking to parents and staff who understand your challenges and struggles, has been what I have appreciated the most. Before I started attending Playskill, I hardly ever left the house alone with Safiya. I had earlier on tried to attend typical mother and baby groups but trying to join in with neurotypical 6 month old babies sitting up clapping, whilst Safiya lay on her back left me, for the most part, feeling awkward and isolated. Having a cup of tea at Playskill, without holding a baby in my arms, and talking to parents in similar situations, has become an important outlet for me each week.
However, the biggest impact has definitely been for Safiya. The team at Playskill really tailor her therapy plan to suit her needs specifically, from what positions to put her in for physio to how to help her communicate better. For example, they recently were able to fund a new chair for Safiya to use at Playskill that would suit her needs better. Despite Safiya being a massive diva (not an understatement!), they have persisted with trying to help me to get her to tolerate seating (or anything other than my arms). When I feel low and can’t ever imagine the situation improving, they have given me that extra push in the right direction that has motivated and energised me to keep working with her. Also, Safiya is a completely different girl to the one that joined last year. She has become more alert, more social, and more comfortable in different environments and new situations.
Finally, the staff at Playskill have that unique combination of being so skilled in their area and ridiculously caring. When you are there, you really feel like they genuinely care for your child and are rooting for them so much! Being able to have someone else appreciate when Safiya sat in a chair for more than 5 seconds without crying is amazing.
Playskill has helped me cope and make sense of this crazy journey, and I can’t imagine going through it all without that support. My heart remains heavy as I think of other families who will receive the unthinkable news that their child has sustained a life-altering injury like Safiya. I understand all too well the grief and uphill battles they are sure to encounter. I also pray that these families will be lucky enough to come across an organisation like PlaySkill to help and support them and to give them the strength and will to advocate, to never give up … and to keep hope alive.
Thank you for listening and a big thanks to all of the staff, volunteers and other parents for their continued love and support.