The founder of a social enterprise in south east Northumberland, which supports families with children who have additional needs, will find out later this month if she has won a prestigious national award.
Donna Swan – who started Calmer Therapy three years ago – is on a short list of seven nominees in the category for Charity Diversity Champion at the Inclusive Companies Awards 2018, which takes place in Manchester on 15 November.
The awards, previously called the Excellence in Diversity Awards, celebrate those who “go above and beyond the call of duty to improve the lives of others in workplaces and communities around them.”
Earlier this year Donna and Calmer Therapy received nominations at the National Diversity Awards and last year she picked up the Outstanding Community Award at the AKO Autism Hero Awards in London.
Calmer Therapy is based in Guidepost and has branches in Hexham and Berwick. Its 50 volunteers now help more than a 1000 families.
She set it up to fill a gap in support for children with multiple behavioural difficulties, such as Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Tourette’s, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), learning disabilities and anxiety.
That gap, said Donna, was evident in the case of her son as well as the children of parents she met when she worked as a care worker.
“Children with complex issues are simply not catered for,” said Donna. “I’ve worked in behavioural units where the most likely scenario was a lifetime in care. There has to be a better solution than that.
“I am very proud of the award nominations, but most importantly I hope they will raise awareness of the problems facing so many families.”
Calmer Therapy offers parents practical support, advice and training and has even started its own version of the scouts – Calmer Explorers and Calmer Adventurers – to provide outdoor learning and experiences for children of all ages.
One of its volunteers is Maddie Wilson from Bedlington. Her nine-year-old son has Tourette’s and additional needs.
“What I found in Calmer Therapy was acceptance and inclusion,” she said. “That it’s actually alright not to know what to do, because there’s somebody who will.
“When you have a child in mainstream school nobody else has these problems, so the teachers can’t tell you where to go – they can give you a vague idea – but there’s a six month waiting list before you can speak to somebody.”
Donna and her team of volunteers are hoping to set up branches of Calmer Therapy in Cumbria and Yorkshire and, as the social enterprise grows, she is also recruiting directors to help in its governance.
You should have experience and knowledge of Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND), mental health, bid writing, budgeting and strategic planning.
The roles are voluntary and unpaid and require a minimum commitment of four hours per month. For further information contact Donna at email@example.com.