All posts by Cailey Whitcher

it’s here… our very own Christmas sing along!

Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group Christmas Sing Along 2020
Our members have created this fantastic video of the Christmas classic ‘Jingle Bells’ to get you all in the festive spirit! We hope you enjoy singing along to it.
Keep following our Facebook page to see lots of festive photos and messages. Feel free to share your videos of you singing along to a Christmas classic too.
Now, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without a raffle, would it? Zurich Community Trust have kindly donated us two hampers and a box of treats to help raise funds for the Group. If you would like a chance to win one of these fantastic prizes all you need to do is donate £5 to our dedicated Just Giving page (see link below) and you will be entered into the draw.
We will allocate one entry for every £5 donated, so the more you donate the more chances of winning you have! Entries close at 9pm on 20 December.
The draw will take place during our Virtual Youth Club on 21 December and the winners announced the same day on our Facebook page. Don’t forget when you donate to leave your name and a contact so we can get in touch with you if you’re a winner.
The Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group are registered under the Gambling Act 2005. Licence No. 881120525SSLOT. Tickets are not transferrable and may not be purchased by persons under 16 years of age.

adapting to the new normal – Keeping Speech & language therapy going through covid

We are very excited to announce that we have been successful in receiving funding from the Coronavirus Community Support Fund, distributed by The National Lottery Community Fund.

One of the main areas of need for our children and young people is the area of communication. All our children /young people will have some level of learning disability and some difficulty with speech and language. The Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group provides weekly speech and language sessions to its members during term time and has done so for nearly 20 years.

Speech and language sessions for our children and young people is about increasing their vocabulary, giving them clarity of speech, understanding of language, teaching signs but most of all increasing their confidence and self-esteem by encouraging them to speak, giving them the structure and words they need to do this.

Regular Speech and Language Therapy gives our young people the opportunity to develop their speech and comprehension skills, enabling them to go on to achieve far more than otherwise have been possible for them, and to become much better integrated it into the community.

Because of the outbreak of Coronavirus, the groups Trustees had to think outside the box and find an alternative way to continue to provide this crucial service. Which is when the idea of virtual speech came about.

One of our parents has said “My son would have lost so much progress if these sessions had not been put into place. He loves seeing the power points and seeing his name on the screen. Having the virtual sessions has helped him have that little bit of normality in these unsure times. He looks forward to the sessions.”

Kim West, the Chair of the Swindon Down’s Syndrome group has said “Speech therapy needs to become part of their everyday routine and brought into everyday situations. It’s about making it fun and normal, not different. The ability to communicate is such a basic need, it enables our young people to communicate choice, feelings, needs and allows them to socialise and in turn speak for themselves. For all of us, being able to communicate is a fundamental part of our ability to be a part of our communities, workplaces and families.”

Our virtual sessions are fun, and each session is backed up with home learning and resources to print or packs are sent out by the therapist to help continue the work covered in that session.

We are extremely grateful to the National Lottery and DCMS for this support and it will help us to continue with our virtual Speech and Language Therapy Group through this difficult time. This will really benefit the young people and ensure their future is safe while we are coming to terms with a different way of dealing with things.








One of the main areas of need for our children and young people is in the area of communication. All our children/young people will have some level of learning disability and some difficulty with speech and language. The Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group provides weekly speech and language to its members during term time and have done so for nearly 20 years.

Speech and Language sessions for our children and young people is about increasing their vocabulary, give them clarity of speech, understanding of language, teaching signs but most of all increasing their confidence and self esteem by encouraging them to speak and giving them the structure and words they need to do this.

Because of the outbreak of Coronavirus, the group’s trustees had to think outside the box and find an alternative way to continue to provide this crucial service. Which is when the idea of virtual speech sessions came about.

Oliver has been receiving speech and language since the service began nearly 20 years ago. His mum Jo, shares how Oliver has adapted to this ‘new way’ of receiving speech therapy.

Before the lockdown how often did Oliver receive SALT?

Oliver received speech once a week during term time.

What support are you getting with SALT now? 

Oliver is currently receiving a virtual session once a fortnight with work being sent through to do between these session sT.his has been delivered through email or in the post.

Without regular SALT sessions in lockdown how would this have impacted Oliver?

Oliver would have lost the progress that he has made over the last few months. Young people with Down’s syndrome need repetition in learning so they retain it into their long term memory. Because Oliver has been shielding at home he not been seeing people, his link with speech has really helped him have a small amount of normality.

How has Oliver found the virtual SALT sessions?

Oliver enjoys the sessions and loves seeing the power points with his name on them. He is responding well to learning this way. Colourful slides enable him to focus and then backing it all up with the resources sent he is enjoying this new way of learning.

What has been Oliver’s favourite part of these new sessions?

Being able to access it from home and not have a 30 minute drive there and 45 minute drive back he is more focused and willing to learn.

How has Oliver adapted to the changes?

Oliver has adapted brilliantly to these changes. In fact he has embraced this change and looks forward to seeing Erica on the laptop as part of his new routine. He loves the learning packs sent and the fact they are addressed to him.

As a parent how has having access to SALT during lockdown help you?

SALT has been something to look forward to, its given Oliver confidence in this unsure time. It has helped us keep a small amount of life normal with something to focus on .Seeing a friendly face has really cheered him up. Oliver has had someone else to tell about what he has been doing other than us. This has really helped his speech and sentence work.

Keeping our young people safe and well

In response to the current COVID-19 situation in the UK, we would like to take this opportunity to provide you with some advice when attending SDSG activities.

You’ll all be aware of Coronavirus and the increasing concerns surrounding this and we understand that health worries are often heightened for those with a vulnerable person in their family. 

We recognise that there may be concerns from parents/carers about attending events and our regular activities.

  • We would ask that if you are unwell or have been unwell in recent days not to attend Group activities until you are completely recovered.
  • We actively encourage you to wash you hands with warm/hot water before you take part in any activities and suggest you do the same afterwards. 
  • We would also ask that you limit contact with others – this would include hugging and shaking hands. 

We want to make sure we can signpost you to up-to-date information and the latest advice – below is some key information.

Key sources of information and support: 

  • For accurate and up-to-date information, you can visit the Department of Health and Social Care website. This includes information on which groups should self-isolate (including on the basis of travel history from specific countries) and who to contact for advice. The guidance on this page is being updated on a daily basis. 
  • The NHS website has more information about how to reduce the possible spread of infection.
  • The DSA website has further information and resources designed to help people who have Down’s syndrome to understand cornonavirus and know what to look out for.

What you can do to help

There are precautions we can all take to limit the spread of infections and help to keep ourselves well. The advice is to:

  •  Cover your mouth with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you sneeze or cough.
  •  Put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards.
  •  Wash hands with soap and warm/hot water often for at least 20 seconds – use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water is not available.
  •  Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
  •  Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.

We thank you for your understanding. 

SWINDON Down’s syndrome Group AGM 2020

Saturday 29 February 2020

From 11am – 2pm (AGM starts promptly at 12.15pm)

All are welcome to join us for our annual Open Day and Annual General Meeting. 

The Group will be showcasing all the activities and services we offer our members. From DSActive football to Speech & Language Therapy, youth club to Salamander, new parent support to school resource packs – it’s your opportunity to discover more! There will be free tea, coffee and cake available on the day too!

The AGM is the only formal part of the day. Please see the agenda. At our AGM, all Trustee positions become vacant and elections are held to fill them for the coming year. We welcome nominations for our Chairperson and subsequent nine Trustees. The closing date for applications is 31 January 2020. Complete a nomination form here.

We look forward to seeing you all there.

Join the Swindon Down’s syndrome Group board of trustees in 2020

Are you enthusiastic and passionate about supporting people with Down’s syndrome? 

We are inviting members who would like to be one of our charity trustees to submit an application. 

Being a trustee is about engaging with our members, attending monthly meetings, organising and supporting events as well as lots of other little tasks to do with the day-to-day running of the charity.

We are governed by a board which comprises up to 10 Trustees, including the Chair, Vice-Chair, Secretary, Treasurer and Vice-Treasurer. 

If you’ve got specific skills or experience you can bring – perhaps you’re an excellent events organiser or fabulous fundraiser; you like to support new parents or raise awareness in the local community.

If this is you or you know someone who fits the bill and would make an outstanding trustee for the Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group – applications close on 31 January 2020.

Next steps…

  1. Please read: ‘What’s required of a charity trustee, including your responsibilities to your charity’ 
  2. Complete the nomination form 
  3. Email it to or post to: Secretary, Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group,
    34 Periwinkle Close, Swindon SN2 2QH

What happens next?

All nominations will be considered by our current Board of Trustees, who will recommend those candidates to be put forward to the membership for election at the AGM on 29 February. 

Download an application form

Download Word version

Download PDF version


Local student and printer team up to produce charity Christmas card

A final year degree student, studying graphic design at Swindon College has won the Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group’s Christmas card design competition.

Anna Russell’s design was chosen as the winning entry by the charity trustee’s. The charity launched the competition back in June and specifically chose to work with Swindon College students.

Charity Trustee, Cailey Whitcher said “For us it’s so important to work with our local community and working with the students at Swindon College seemed like the perfect opportunity. We know there’s a lot of talented students on the course and we wanted to give the winner the opportunity to have their work showcased.

“Anna’s design really impressed us. She took some traditional themes and added her own artistic twist. She really listened to our brief and came up with something that we think everyone will want to buy.”

Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group have picked two of Anna’s designs, “In the Snow” and “Christmas Robin at Night” to use on their cards that are on sale now. The cards are £3.50 per pack and can be purchased from the group.

Proceeds from the sale of the cards will go towards the Group’s Speech and Language Therapy project. Cailey continued, “For all of us, being able to communicate is a fundamental part of our ability to be part of our communities, workplaces and families. Regular speech and language therapy gives our young people the opportunity to develop their speech and comprehension skills, enabling them to go on to achieve far more than might otherwise have been possible for them, and to become a much bigger part of our community.”

Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group Christmas Cards designed by Anna Russell

The cards have been printed by local printer CATs Solutions (Emagination Store), based in Rushy Platt who are supporting the charity’s Christmas campaign this year. Greg Smith, Managing Director said, “It was a pleasure to be able to support such a fantastic local charity who do such great work, we hope the cards help them raise lots of money”.

Christmas cards can be purchased by emailing

It’s time for our Christmas Parties

Would you believe Christmas is just around the corner? So it’s time to start planning our Christmas parties for this year. 

As we did last year, we will be holding two separate parties, one for our younger members (year 6 and below) and one for our older ones (year 7 and above). 

Children’s Christmas Party

Our Children’s Christmas party will be held on Saturday 30 November, from 3pm-6pm at Saint Barnabas Church Hall in Gorse Hill. 

Join us for an afternoon of fun and laughter as we welcome along local children’s entertainers Razamatazz and not forgetting a special visit from Father Christmas.

Each child with Down’s syndrome and their siblings (under 12) will receive a present from Father Christmas. Food will be provided for the children only – please make your selection below and notify us of any dietary requirements.

Teas and coffee will be available for parents and carers.

Download the party invite here.

Christmas Disco

Our Christmas Disco, specifically for those in year 7 and above will take place on Friday 6 December at the Crossways Suite, Moonraker’s Pub, Cricklade Road from 6.30-10pm.

The evening will include a buffet, disco, raffle and each person with Down’s syndrome and siblings under 16 will receive a gift from ‘Secret Santa’.

Download the invite here.

Fancy coming along?

You need to let us know by 31 October if you’d like to come along as we need to make sure Father Christmas has time to get all the presents.

If you need more information please email



Olly gives NEW health swap App the thumbs up

Over the summer DSActive launched the Health Swap for people with Down’s syndrome to use in an App on their phones and tablets to help them make good choices on their lifestyle.

Jo downloaded it onto her phone for Oliver to use. Here’s how he’s found using it. 

“We have had great fun adding his exercise each day and to gain points and badges. You can put in all about yourself as well and update this every time you use it to gain points.

The food section is great and I have tried a few of the recipes, but as yet Oliver is to be convinced. The great thing is that there is nothing negative on the food section, so if you do choose the takeaway option they just tell you to choose better next time.

The whole App is straightforward to use and there are lots of exercise options to use and the amount of time you exercise for is easy to use.

Oliver loves adding his smiley face each day, or whatever mood he is in. This will give you points as well.

Recently they have also launched the DSActive Health Swap App Group on Facebook. There are lots of blogs and advice and facts about nutrition. I can really recommend this App. It’s worth downloading and giving it a go. We love it.”

It’s september which means it’s back to school

While some of your little ones will be taking those very first steps off to school, some of you will be moving up to the next year group and others will be starting new schools and colleges.

We hope the first few weeks have gone as smoothly as possible and everyone has settled in nicely. You were kind enough to share some of your back to school photos with us. So here they are…

 And thank you to Zoe for sharing their ‘not back to school’ camping trip photos too!

We’ll be sharing them in the next issue of our magazine which is out next month so look out for them!