In a collaborative effort to support children with complex needs in Scunthorpe, a specialised play scheme was organised by Children’s Links, which takes place during the Easter & summer holidays. Children’s Links have been running Play Scheme since 2015. The primary aim of this project is to create a safe space where these children can be stimulated and enjoy themselves. This case study focuses on the experience of “H”*, a 7-year-old boy with complex needs, during his time at the Play Scheme.

H's situation presented unique challenges due to his condition. He had been diagnosed with Pica, an eating disorder characterised by the consumption of non-food items lacking nutritional value, such as hair, dirt, and paint chips. Additionally, H was non-verbal, had limited ability in Makaton (a form of sign language), and required assistance with toileting. Furthermore, he would become upset and agitated if touched without warning, and would sometimes react with sudden outbursts.

Before H's participation in the Play Scheme, a taster session was arranged during the first week. H's mother accompanied him, but the session was challenging as H continuously raced around the entire school, with his mother trailing behind. It became evident that H frequently attempted to escape from different situations. As a result, a thorough risk assessment was conducted, and it was decided that he would be assigned the same staff member who had supported him during the taster session.

Over the course of three sessions at the Play Scheme, H's progress was remarkable. He actively engaged in activities and displayed interaction skills with other children. One particular moment of delight was when H played with shaving foam, thoroughly enjoying its sensory texture and emitting bursts of giggles. He also relished walking over stones in the sensory garden, finding joy in the tactile experience. Furthermore, H appreciated the relaxation time, during which he received a foot massage from his dedicated one-on-one staff member.

The impact of the Play Scheme extended beyond H's personal development. His participation allowed his family to spend valuable time together, offering his parents an opportunity to connect with his siblings. In the words of H's parent, "Thank you for the play scheme. It gave us some valuable family time to spend with my other children. This is a very helpful service, and the staff are friendly and caring."

The success of H's experience at the Play Scheme demonstrates the significance of creating tailored programs for children with complex needs. By understanding and accommodating individual requirements, these initiatives can provide a supportive environment that fosters growth, interaction, and enjoyment.

The Play Scheme's ability to positively impact H's life and enhance the overall well-being of his family highlights the importance of community-based services. Through their dedication and care, the staff members involved in the play scheme demonstrated the transformative power of inclusive programs and their potential to create lasting memories for children with complex needs and their families.

*The images shown do not show "H", however they do show other children who have taken part in the Play Scheme.