Case Study by a Portage Parent - Liverpool and Stockton on Tees

Beckie is a passionate advocate and champion of the Portage model. She is eager to share what she has learnt with everyone she meets and is very proud of how her son, Oscar is responding to the Portage small steps approach. Beckie, Oscar and family have received Portage in both Liverpool and Stockton on Tees and all attended the NPA Conference in 2015.

Portage in Liverpool

In 2014 Beckie and her son Oscar were involved in a project to develop ‘Portage in Liverpool’. Families were offered a 6 week Portage Parent Training programme, followed with access to Portage Plus; a parent support group to meet and review progress, set new targets and share successes with other parents.

'Me and Oscar have gained so much from Portage Parent Training and Portage Plus. Before attending my little boy would not give any eye contact and was struggling to communicate in any way. These issues were causing further problems for our home life, as Oscar would get very frustrated; screaming, kicking and head-butting hard surfaces. Sometimes this would last hours just down to frustration and was very upsetting.

Through attending Portage sessions, I have learned a lot of techniques to play and communicate with Oscar. He has come on leaps and bounds; much more than I could have imagined a matter of months ago. He now willingly gives eye contact and knows ways to non-verbally communicate almost all of his needs. He will now willingly take part in playing with me and his Dad, whereas before Portage that was a ‘no go’.

 This has changed our lives in so many ways; his meltdowns have vanished, as he is no longer constantly frustrated.

Portage has taught me so much and has given me the knowledge and confidence to work and play with my little boy. I love Portage and the results are truly amazing!

Portage has given me and Oscar so much and I am looking forward to being able to take part in Portage up in Stockton on Tees. I still have all my Portage paperwork and worksheets and continue to complete them at home along with activities I try with Oscar.

Portage has taught me the best ways to teach and play with my son. There is no failing, just more trying until we achieve. I felt there was no hope before becoming a part of the Portage in Liverpool project -  it has changed our lives for the better so much and helped my son to no end; for that I am eternally grateful'.

Portage in Stockton on Tees

On moving to Stockton on Tees, Beckie, Oscar and family received Portage from their new local service; this included weekly home visits from Portage Visitor, Julia Huggins.

‘Julia was absolutely fantastic with Oscar. Julia really connected with him and he really started to engage with Julia. At first Oscar was quite reluctant to interact with Julia, so she gently encouraged Oscar and watched him. It was amazing to see how she observed him and knew what she could use to get Oscar to engage in play with her and surely enough in a matter of weeks Oscar was excited for Julia’s weekly visits.

Very quickly Oscar started to acknowledge Julia off his own back and look through her bag of toys and initiate play. Julia introduced Oscar and us to the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) and quickly got the Speech and Language Therapist on board. It was great to have Julia and the speech therapist do joint home visits.

Julia also helped a lot with Oscar’s sensory issues. She introduced different kinds of messy play to Oscar, using his favourite toy balls with shaving foam on. This really helped Oscar as he hated to touch anything with a sloppy or sticky looking texture. Now Oscar goes in head first to all kinds of textures; he will happily put his hand in a bucket to retrieve a ball with shaving foam on and loves play dough games. 

As well as Portage home visits, we also attended a Portage open afternoon at the early support nursery where Oscar was due to start the following September. This was a great afternoon with parents, children and Portage staff involved in lots of different sensory activities, including finger painting, climbing and textured stepping stones.

It was quite overwhelming to see Oscar enjoying the group session and for us to have fun with him. These visits really helped Oscar integrate into nursery where he has now been attending 3 days a week for 5 months and is coming on leaps and bounds. Oscar has a fantastic key person and is completely comfortable with all the fantastic staff in his classroom; fortunately he still sees Julia around the nursery as the Portage team are based in the nursery.

In both Liverpool and Stockton on Tees, Portage has helped Oscar and us as a family so much. We cannot thank Julia Huggins enough for being so dedicated and brilliant at what she does. I honestly cannot say how much more we would have struggled in the past year without Julia coming for weekly visits and being at the end of the phone whenever we needed her help. Thank you Portage!’

NPA Conference:

In 2015 Beckie and Oscar attended the NPA Annual Conference.

‘We were so lucky to have this amazing opportunity. We gained so much from meeting so many brilliant people who had so much brilliant, effective advice and attending some marvelous seminars ranging from home sensory ideas to how to effectively use ipad apps with your children.

My personal favourite seminar was Magdi Kovacs 'Dreaded Drama Triangle'; as it helped in so many ways and made sense of so much that we did not understand prior to the seminar. Magdi delivered the seminar though the story of Little Red Riding Hood; focusing on the problem and anxiety whilst also explaining the antidote of empowerment dynamics, which focuses on the solution with positivity. This approach allows everyone to stand in each others shoes and work out a positive solution to moving forwards.

I was so inspired by Magdi and just had to catch up with her for a chat. She took an hour of her time to talk me through the ins and outs of what was most appropriate to our family situation. She listened, advised and was just such a beautiful inspirational person who I am still in touch with to this day.

Magdi is a life coach for famlies with children with complex needs and we plan to meet in the future . www.specialfootprints.co.uk

(Hear Magdi's NPA Conference seminar)

I must also mention the extremely moving and heartfelt speech from Hayley Goleniowska from www.downssideup.com; another inspirational woman / mother whose journey was so emotional to hear. The passion in Hayley’s face, voice and everything she does was just beyond overwhelming. Not a dry eye in the house!  

(Check out Hayley's NPA Conference presentation)

Whilst we enjoyed all of the seminars, Oscar and my little brother, Oliver got to spend time in the fantastic Portage crèche, playing together and meeting other children with the marvelous staff who were absloutley out of this world with the children. It was amazing to see how they knew exactly what Oscar needed when getting distressed after just half an hour of meeting him!

The conference atmosphere was so warm and welcoming and everybody was so helpful as we also had our newborn son Oakley-J who was just 3 and a half weeks old at the time. He came to all of the seminars!

Me and my family will definitely be attending NPA Conference in the future and are extremely thankful, grateful and proud to have been part of NPA conference 2015.’

Beckie and Oscar Elstob