Category Archives: News

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!

Life is so much easier now Lily can communicate what she wants

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 much better integrated into the community.

Lily’s mum, Amanda, shares how speech and language therapy has helped her daughter.

Lily was a very smiley baby, enjoyed interacting with others and seemed very keen to communicate. However for a long time she was unable to speak.

During Lily’s sessions at Springboard Opportunity Group in Chippenham, and Portage, we were introduced to using Makaton. As a family, we all learned some Makaton signs and used them at home, alongside spoken words. Even Lily’s sisters Aislinn and Sophie (who was only 2 at the time!) joined in enthusiastically learning the signs and doing their best to encourage Lily to copy. Lily’s grandparents even learned to sign to her.

After persevering with this for some time, Lily slowly started using a couple of signs, waving ‘hello’ and signing ‘food.’ At Springboard she really enjoyed singing nursery rhymes and signing along with Makaton. We started to sing these songs to her at home. After a long time of doing this, she gradually started to copy some of the signs, singing the words. This really was a big breakthrough in her finding her voice – she still has a big love of singing!

Lily sees her NHS Speech and Language Therapist approximately once per term. She has been brilliant in helping Lily with swallowing problems and advising how to help Lily’s speech and language to develop. We were so grateful for the help Lily was receiving, but wished she could have more sessions, to help to bring her on as she was so behind with her speech.

We became involved with the Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group when Lily was around two and a half. After we joined, we were told that the group provide regular speech therapy (SALT) free of charge. 

We were given a form to complete and promptly sent an appointment to see the Group’s therapist, Erica.

Lily really enjoys her sessions with Erica. She has given us so much useful advice on how we can help Lily to progress. Things that were easy to do, such as having Lily with me when I’m doing the housework, and describing what I’m doing to increase Lily’s vocabulary. Giving her choices such as ‘do you want the blue ball or the yellow ball?’,  and even helping her to start ‘reading’ by matching simple words to photos. 

Having the extra SALT sessions, which the NHS just can’t provide, with a Down’s Syndrome Specialist such as Erica, has made a huge difference to Lily’s progress.

Since Lily has been seeing Erica I have noticed huge improvements in Lily’s speech and understanding. Erica is so knowledgeable about Down’s syndrome and I feel very thankful to the Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group that they provide this extra service. It has been invaluable to Lily’s development.

This improvement in Lily’s speech skills have had a huge effect on her life. Other children at nursery find it easier to understand her, so she is more able to play with them and form friendships. She used to get very frustrated because no one could understand what she was saying. Life is so much easier for her now she can communicate what she wants.

Lily is now three and a half and her speech is going from strength-to-strength. She is still delayed in her speech & language development, but continues to improve all the time. She can now speak in sentences, telling us what she wants for breakfast or which episode of Mr Tumble she wants to watch! One of the best moments recently was when I was putting her to bed, and she suddenly gave me a big hug said ‘love you Mummy.’


The Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group is on the shortlist to win a share of Persimmon Homes’ Building Futures £1million pot supporting under-18s nationwide but first they need online votes to win. 

Persimmon Homes Wessex is backing Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group to be a prize winner at a gala dinner in October, where cash awards of £100,000, £50,000 or £20,000 will be made to those winning the most online votes. 

Kim West representing The Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group said: “It is a huge achievement to have been selected as a regional finalist, but now we really need people to get behind us and get voting so that we are in the strongest possible position to earn one of the top three cash awards on the night. 

The Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group is a parent-led volunteer group, run by 10 Trustees and we support around 100 families within the SN Postcode. If we were successful, the money will go towards our Speech and Language Therapy Project. 

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 the, and to become much better integrated into the community. 

We have seen the Speech and Language Therapy Service transforming the lives and prospects of our young people. We can only continue to provide this service if we are able to raise sufficient funds. We are therefore extremely grateful to Persimmon Homes to have been chosen as a regional finalist and if we were to win one of the top three prizes, it would secure this project for come considerable time”. 

Kim added: “Voting could not be simpler. Just visit to and select Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group and vote for us we would really appreciate everyone’s support.” 

Building Futures is being delivered through the Persimmon Charitable Foundation, which last year donated £620,000 to support children’s sport. 

Through Building Futures, a total of 128 grants of £1,000 have been awarded to groups supporting sport, education & arts and health across Persimmon’s 31 regional businesses and its head office. 

Persimmon Homes is an official partner of Team GB and the Persimmon Charitable Foundation enlisted the help of medallists Kat Copeland and Callum Skinner to help determine the three regional finalists for each business division. 

One initiative from each category will go on to win £100,000 each through a national award scheme to be decided by a public vote. 

As well as the £100,000 first prize, there will be a £50,000 second prize and a £20,000 third prize in each sector, while a further 87 shortlisted projects will each receive £5,000. 

Online voting is now open and will close at midnight on September 27. 

To support the Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group please visit: 

Recycle Your Ink Cartridges and Help Support Swindon Downs Syndrome Group

Did you know that you can help us raise funds simply by recycling your ink cartridges via our Recycle4Charity programme?

For each inkjet cartridge recycled via the programme we will receive a £1 donation, meaning you can help the environment whilst raising money for charity!

To start, all you need to do is go to the address shown below and sign up for your free account.

Register now at –

Myles’ at the watermill

The Watermill Theatre in Newbury runs a program (called Fourth Wall) aided by the Greenham Trust to present a play starring adults with learning difficulties. The latest production ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ by Oscar Wilde is the seventh production. Previous plays were: Under Milk Wood, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Frankenstein, Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night and Jane Eyre. This was Myles’ fifth play at the Watermill.

The Theatre puts on a play with professional actors, which is then differentiated and reduced from about 2 hours to around 45 minutes for special needs requirements. The play ran from May 23rd to 29thJune with our version being performed on Thursday 27thJune.

Watermill Theatre

The program lasts for eight weeks and is held each Thursday at the theatre. Three sessions to learn the play, three to rehearse, one to see the professional performance and the final one to perform their version to an invited audience.

Eight week plan

Each character in the play has a photo of the Watermill professional actor and a hat associated with it. This helps those involved to identify with their character, and recognise the actors, when they watch the Watermill show.

After the learning sessions characters are assigned:

After the learning sessions characters are assigned.

Myles was assigned the character of Miss Prism. Each actor is given their lines to take home and learn. He loves it and is happy becoming ‘someone else’ and acting out his character for an audience. 

The rehearsing sessions are held in one of the studios.

Their performance was well received by the audience; this is them taking a bow…

The professional cast met with them afterwards…

Myles is looking forward to the next production.

Wiltshire Police smash #Lotsofsocks target

Kim West, Chair of Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group and her daughter Sophie collect a cheque from Wiltshire Police

There was a great atmosphere this week at Wiltshire Police HQ in Devizes as Kim West and her daughter, Sophie, collected a cheque for £4,357.31. The special event was held to thank the twelve companies who supported our Down’s syndrome awareness campaign and bought #Lotsofsocks.

“It was a real honour and a privilege for Sophie and I to attend Wiltshire Police to thank the companies that raised this incredible amount of money through selling #Lotsofsocks back in March this year.”

The Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group would like to thank Royal Mail, Trowbridge Sorting Office, Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, Salisbury Police, Swindon Police, APD,Avon rubber plc, Devizes School, Wadworth Brewery (Devizes),Aster, Salisbury Fire Station,Fairfield Farm College and Wiltshire Police Devizes HQ themselves.

“Sophie presented each company with a certificate on behalf of the Group to thank them for their hard work and commitment. It was lovely to hear Chief Constable Kier Pritchard talk about how he had set a target for Roy Perrett to sell 1,000 pairs of socks and beat their 2018 total of 909. It’s fair to say Roy and his team smashed that target out of the water through their pure hard work and determination.”  

Roy did not work alone, he was helped by Jeremy, Luke, Edward and Vivien whom have Down’s syndrome but are all employed by Wiltshire Police through the WorkFit Programme.  Jeremy and Luke work at Devizes HQ, Vivien works for Swindon Police and Edward volunteers in the Police Records office in Salisbury.

Kim then spoke a little about WorkFit and was given the opportunity to thank everyone for the amazing amount of money raised, but more importantly, raising awareness of Down’s syndrome.  She said how seeing the community come together was really quite extraordinary and heart-warming.

The afternoon was then drawn to a close but not before Roy Perrett and Chief Constable Kier Pritchard stated next year was going to be even bigger and better so watch this space.

Thank you once again Wiltshire Police for your tremendous support.

JOB opportunity Workfit Employment Liaison Officer Swindon

The Down’s Syndrome Association’s WorkFit programme is looking to recruit an Employment Liaison Officer for Swindon and the surrounding areas. You will be responsible for implementing a one year plan for supporting people with Down’s syndrome to access the work place.

Closing date for applications: Sunday 21st July, 5pm. Interviews will take place on Tuesday 30th July 2019. 

To apply, please send a covering letter and a copy of your CV to Alison Thwaite If you have any questions and you would like an information discussion before applying, please call Alison Thwaite on 07973 612720. 

Download full details here.

Todd gets paid employment at Coles Scaffolding

Potential employers are never too far away. In Todd’s case an old family friend gave in to Todd’s persistence a few months ago. Martyn Coles the owner of Coles Scaffolding Contractors Limited had been nagged by Todd for some work experience. Eventually, as Martyn said “I decided to give him a chance”.

This chance has been so successful that Martyn now wants to make Todd’s position permanent. Todd’s mother Vicky, who has been a long standing member of the Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group contacted Jonathan Grew the Swindon Employment Liaison officer for WorkFit so that Todd and Cole’s Scaffolding could become part of the WorkFit programme.

Although Todd is “part of the furniture” Martyn welcomed the opportunity for his team to have WorkFit training to further their support for Todd. In turn Vicky has found it helpful to understand from Jonathan the paperwork that needs to be put in place prior to full employment, as did Martyn.

Todd working at Coles Scaffolding