Diverse Abilities

Diverse Abilities

Help Support More Children like Beautiful Arabella

For the past two years, Arabella, who has just turned five, has been supported by Langside – the special school run by Dorset’s disability charity, Diverse Abilities. Arabella, also known as Bella, brings delight to her family and all who know her. But life can be very hard for her, as she needs round the clock care day and night.

Bella was diagnosed with quadriplegia cerebral palsy at an early age, affecting all of her muscles, swallowing and core stability, as well as her vision.

Bella’s mum, Debbie, said: “Initially, one of the hardest things about being a parent of a disabled child is not knowing what support is out there to help you. You think you are the only person with a child with complex needs. At first we didn’t realise or want to accept that Bella would need specialist support as she appeared very similar to her twin brother William as a baby. But before too long we realised that if we wanted the best for Bella we had to accept it and find the perfect place for her.”

In 2014 Debbie and her husband visited Langside and met principal Jon and teacher Nikki for a tour, and they learnt how the school could support Bella. Debbie said: “As soon as we walked in, we knew it would be right for Bella. I thought ‘halleluiah’ as I really didn’t think we’d find somewhere so perfect. We were welcomed with open arms and Jon and Nikki were amazing. We knew we could trust them to help and support her. After the visit, my first thought was – we need to get Bella to school as early as possible.”

Bella started at the school when she was three and attends five days per week. During the past two years the school’s tailored unique sensory curriculum has enabled her to make significant progress.

Debbie said: “Thanks to the speech and language therapists, the fantastic teachers and staff Bella can now make simple choices and communicate some of her needs using TaSSeLs - tactile signing for sensory learners. The daily physiotherapy and occupational therapy support has helped Bella incredibly - she can use her hands and arms and has miraculously taken a couple of steps using a specialist walking frame. She is also able to enjoy eating special food rather than rely solely on a tube in to her stomach. All the little things mean so much.”

When at school Bella really enjoys hydrotherapy, as the water helps her relax and she feels safe. She has so much fun in the water, whilst the school’s physiotherapists are helping give her the physical therapy and support she needs and benefits from. She also really enjoys the school’s sensory garden and being outside in the sunshine. There is a great deal of music therapy at the school too which Bella really enjoys, particularly the sound of bells.

Debbie added: “All the staff and therapists have had a positive impact on Bella and have made such a difference to her quality of life. As parents that is all we could ask for. Not only do they support Bella, but all of us as a family.”

Bella also attends the charity’s weekly Caterpillar Club, for pre-school disabled children, their parents and siblings. Both Bella and her twin brother really enjoy this special time together, and it is great for William to meet other siblings in similar situation.

It is only with the help of the Dorset community that Diverse Abilities can provide this support to children like Bella and their families. Start making a difference today by visiting www.diverseabilities.org.uk/arabella.

Just £20 can pay for an after school play session for a child with disabilities, £50 could buy a variety of sensory toys for children with visual impairments and £120 (just £10/month) is enough to buy a specialist communication aid for a child who cannot speak.

Langside School provides support to children aged two to 19 with profound and multiple disabilities and complex medical needs. The school provides a full sensory and therapeutic approach to meeting the needs the pupils and helps them to achieve their full potential.

For more information regarding Arabella or Langside School please visit www.diverseabilities.org.uk/arabella.

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