Running innovative programmes
Sing and Sign
'It’s only because of those supporters that we can do this, no matter how large or small a donation is. Without it we wouldn’t have been able to do everything we’ve achieved or be thinking about taking it further.’
Sara, Highly Specialist Speech and Language Therapist at Evelina London
Your support has helped launch a DVD which empowers children who struggle with speaking to have the skills and confidence to communicate in other ways.
Watch the video:
Teaching children to sign
The DVD called Little Apples Sing and Sign Therapy Group has been specially created by staff at Evelina London, thanks to donations. Through the fun and interactive method of song, it teaches children and their families to sign.
If a child is unable to vocalise it can be extremely stressful and frustrating for them, as well as for their families. It might be that the child has developmental delays, or perhaps a degenerative disease that’s affecting their speech. It's also common when a child has airway difficulties that they may require a tracheostomy to help them breathe, which is a procedure that involves a tube being inserted through their neck. Unfortunately, this means that they cannot vocalise and signing becomes essential.
The DVD idea stemmed from weekly therapy groups held on Mountain Ward called 'Little Apples Sing and Sign'. The signing is all put to live music with educational and practical lyrics. Heather, the music therapist, is an integral part of the group, ensuring that the signing can be done at appropriate speed. All learning is taught on a one-to-one basis but in a group environment.
Development in hospital and at home
‘We realised there were parents who’d enjoyed the sessions that wanted to continue learning the signing at home as a way of developing it further with their child,’ says Sara Jones, Highly Specialist Speech and Language Therapist. ‘We wanted to show not just the group songs, but also show the children signing in everyday life. So both these elements are included on the DVD.’
Around 27 young patients of Evelina London were involved in the making of the DVD, along with many of their parents and siblings. Scenes were filmed in the Little Apples group therapy setting at the hospital, as well as on the London Eye and on a double decker bus - which was loaned to Evelina London by Mayor of London Boris Johnson, especially for the project.
‘We aim to make parents realise that they can take their children out with all the various medical equipment they may need and how important it is to communicate anywhere,’ says Sue Pruden, Senior Health Play Specialist. ‘Whether it’s in a protected living room or hospital setting, or in the wider world - it’s important that we build that communication bridge with them out and about.’
Bonding through communication
‘Some parents - particularly when their child is first unwell - struggle to communicate and bond with the child,’ continues Sara. ‘Little Apples and the Sing and Sign DVD is encouraging that interaction and making it more normal. The parent isn’t focusing on what the child can’t do and the medical side of things, but instead they’re focusing on a normal developmental skill, laughing with the children and having a very positive experience.’
Around 300 children per year are currently taught to sign at Evelina London through Little Apples. The brilliant new DVD will reach even further, meaning that not only will more children and their families learn but also that more people can be trained in signing.
Donations have meant that a fantastic 1,000 copies of the DVD have been made, 500 of which will be available to families of Little Apples members to take home. The remaining copies will be for sale on the Little Apples website which is launching soon, with all proceeds going towards supporting Evelina London and the future of the project. A second DVD is already in the pipeline, in which Sara and Sue plan to focus on signing whilst storytelling.
Red carpet treatment!
The Sing and Sign launch took place on Wednesday 28 October in the Medicinema at Evelina London, where it was shown on the big screen to a very excited audience made up of the stars of the DVD and their families. The event was also attended by Deputy Mayor of London Victoria Borwick. Each of the children received full ‘red carpet treatment’ and a free copy of the DVD to take home as well.
‘We wanted the children to feel like the mega stars that they are, and feel proud of all the hard work that they’ve put in to show how much fun communication can be,’ says Sara. ‘We’re also so thankful to everybody who’s contributed, not just directly to the DVD but to everybody who’s fundraised to give us this money. It’s only because of those people that we can do this, no matter how large or small a donation is. Without it we wouldn’t have been able to do everything we’ve achieved or be thinking about taking it further.’
Your donations have helped us reach out to children with speaking difficulties in this way, and your ongoing support will ensure we can continue projects like Sing and Sign for the young patients of Evelina London.
Pictured: The Little Apples team at the DVD launch event.