All posts by Cailey Whitcher

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!

Salamander: finding the courage to do what you didn’t think you could before

Over the summer 16 young people from the Group took part in the Salamander Fire Course. They enjoyed five-days of fire-fighting skills, first aid, water rescue, abseiling and much more. For Belinda’s daughter Immy it was her second year on the course. Belinda shares how Immy found the course and overcame her fears.


I recently met an adult who had been on a Salamander Fire Course and he said it changed his life and he couldn’t believe what he’d found the courage to do. This is exactly the same course our amazing young people take part in, and I find this so inspiring. The young people rise to the challenge and impress me more than I can express and the team of fire fighters, police and volunteers who expect the best and gently encourage and persuade until each young person excels are really amazing.


Immy is very fearful of heights and although greatly looking forward to her second year of the course had started to grimly fixate on the training tower until it became an all consuming worry.  Amazingly she was encouraged to climb the tower and although not reaching the very top still abseiled down from the level below. Her absolute trust in everyone enabled her to have a go.


I could see the before and after photos during the day and it was clear to see the relief and joy after she’d completed it!

This is what the course is all about. The ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ approach which can only happen if you feel very safe and fully trust those around you and of course if those around you fully understand you and know what support you need.

Immy’s favourite part without a doubt was cutting up cars. She spectacularly enjoys cutting up cars infact! But she also found the courage to lead her crew through a smoke filled building, she confidently climbed gantries to put out fires and literally immersed herself in the water rescue. She has come home a more independent and confident young woman.

I might add that she is still wearing her salamander t-shirts at home!


Well I don’t know about you, but I’m an emotional wreck! Thank you to you all for letting me part of your young persons life for these 5 amazing days. They are all incredible. 

This blog is really a huge thank you to everyone who has been involved in the course. But first a run down of this morning. Breakfast is eaten with delight and I’m sure you are all going to follow our lead and cook a full English for them for the remain of the holiday!! 

Down to the yard and into kit to run through the show. They all put their heart and souls into their parts so they can show you all what they have learnt throughout the 5 days. I hope you agree that it’s brilliant to see them going up and down ladders, cutting up cars and entering a smoke-filled house. As well as this there is the caring side as they look after the injured in the show, but not only that they look after each other. It’s a joy to see and I think firm friends have been made. 

So now to say thank you …… 

First to Danny, Loz and Chris from the Police. You guys have been amazing. Thrown into a group of young people who can be completely unpredictable, nothing has fazed you. You have been there for them every step of the way and they have loved you being there. Thank you for your patience, and thank you for listening, even if you’ve just heard it 3 minutes before! Please come again and visit us. 

Katie, thank you from the bottom of my heart. It’s like I’ve known you for years. Thank you for your shoulder in the moment I needed it and thank you for your kindness to everyone in the group. You came in this week and fitted in instantly, making friends with the young people and helping them when needed but ensuring they did it themselves when they could. We plunged you straight into water on the first morning and nothing has fazed you since. You are an amazing lady. 

Suzanne, even though you were only with us a short time you really made a difference. Thank you for your support and help. I hope you enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed having you with us. There’s never a dull moment on our courses and you joined in and helped us through them. Thank you. 

Toby, wow you have made 17 new friends (includes me) Nothing has been a problem for you and you’ve looked after the groups with kindness and care. Thank you for all your support through the 5 days, it’s been such a pleasure to meet you. Thank you for letting the young people be themselves but being one step behind them ensuring they are safe. You have really made a difference to them this year.

To all the Firefighters who have been with us on the course. You are amazing, I have so much respect for you all. Thank you to Steve, Nathan, Liam, Martin, Darryl, Josh, Matt, Dan, Rob, Jay and Nev. It’s you guys that make dreams come true for our young people. Even when you think they aren’t going to do it and its all going wrong you don’t give up and you get them to do it all again. Those are the moments they will always remember, those are the moments they will go and tell their families about. Thank you.

My biggest thanks is always to Mark and Nicky for the hours of hard work that goes into this course. You treat every single young person as if they were your own. Everyone is equal and everyone has an opportunity to shine. This is why this course means so much to us. Thousands of thank you’s will never cover how grateful as parents we are for your support in the course. Give me until September and I will be on the phone to you ready to book next year! Thank you so. So much for everything. 

I hope those of you that came today enjoyed the show. We are so very proud at what they have all achieved. We have seen maturity and confidence this week and it’s brilliant to watch them grow into the amazing young people they are.

I say goodnight to you all as I say a final thank you. This course has been brilliant. Thank you to everyone for letting us be part of your young person’s life. I hope they have enjoyed it as much as I have. 

I leave you with a quote I found….

“Be courageous in life. Life has so many opportunities so do not be scared to grasp any opportunity that comes your way. You have the ability to do anything you have your heart and mind set to do, even the things that frighten you.”

I raise my glass to them all and wish you good night.

salamander 2019 – day four

Another course nearly over, where does it go? We have had a great day in the sunshine. With the start of last week in the rain this week has been fantastic. Blue skies and smiling faces, how can you not love this course? 

After our wonderful breakfast (which was eaten nearly in silence) it was down to get changed ready to start our busy day. The teams were split so that two teams headed over to cut up some cars, one team went to the smoke house and one team to do hoses. 

There’s nothing better than cutting up cars and each young person had a go at dismantling a car. They started with popping the windows and this is such fun. There are some pictures of the shattered glass on FB now. Then the cutters come out. Immy’s eyes light up and the smile spreads, that girl can’t wait to get her hands on the cutting equipment!! She’s in her element. Everyone gets to make a cut and the roof can then be lifted off. 

Each year I joke about locking up your tools so you don’t end up loosing the roof off your family car. But I do worry that they are now getting really good at this activity and they enjoy it so much. So, I’m warning you now!

Meanwhile there was lots of activity in the smoke house with the added bonus of a little smoke. There was also action on the hoses and you know that all of this is going to be put together ready for the show. 

The morning shot by and it was soon time for lunch. Again, lunch is eaten and today they made record time. Served, eaten, cleared away and down in the yard in one hour. We went straight to the classroom where they picked their jobs for the show. It’s down to the real fun action stuff now and we start to get ready for tomorrow. 

The young people are sent to their jobs and the support crew now know their roles for tomorrow. Smiles all round as they screech around the yard in the fire engine. Lots of water and a baby…….. that’s all I can say on that matter. You will have to wait until the show to see what happens.

I’m looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow. 

Please remember that there is parking over the road at the County Ground.