MASKS Charity to hold huge exhibition at the Gateway Centre to celebrate children with special needs

MASKS wants to break social stigmas by education children about special needs
MASKS wants to break social stigmas by education children about special needs

MASKS are hosting a huge one-day exhibition at AVDC, on Monday June 19 at the Gateway Centre where schools in Bucks will be invited to create something that would 'make a special kid smile'

Schools across Bucks are being asked to get an old 'preloved' picture frame for the children to put something in that would 'make a special kid smile'. It can be artwork, digital or sculptural.

Each framed piece will be as unique as the child who made it and the children it represents.

Sarah Westacott, Chair of the MASKS Trustees said: "The aim of the project is to promote discussion of special needs within mainstream schools.

"I looked into the national curriculum, and there is nothing to inform 'mainstream' children about special needs, and about children who have them. We need to address that lack of information - to inform children of the need to protect vulnerable people in the community, and protect them from abuse.

"The project has come about from my own experience as a mother of 3 children, including a son, Freddie, who has special needs. On numerous occasions I have had to console my daughters over comments other children have made regarding their brother Freddie. Talking to other primary carers and parents of children with special needs this is not an uncommon problem.

"The response to my initial letter has been inspiring. I've written to every school in Bucks, about 234 Schools and have gained positive feedback from the many talks i've done - head teachers, deputy heads and teachers have all spoke to me saying what a great thing is is we are trying to achieve.

"On a personal level I want to campaign for changes so that future generations will discuss special needs in schools, as part of the curriculum. We saw the Winterbourne View care home abuse scandal and how that changes legislation for caring for vulnerable young adults. But We need to back up the legislation with education from a young age, that children with special needs are exactly the same in many ways to mainstream children.

"Currently in the Ofsted framework they talk about part of what children have to discuss is social diversity, ethnicity, race and religion. But special needs and vulnerability are not represented. Why not? It's one of our goals to make it part of the Ofsted framework.

"We want to open up the discussion to enable mainstream peers to understand people with special needs and the difficulties faced by families who care for someone with special needs to ensure that they are informed adults.

"It is these mainstream children who are the future employers, decision makers and leaders and we need to ensure they will be there to protect those more vulnerable and recognise the role these people have within our society.

"We are currently failing mainstream children and our children with special needs by not informing them."

The aims of the project are:

- To open up discussion about special needs within our schools and our community

- To inform mainstream children in order for them to formulate an understanding of the issues faced by those with special needs

-To provide a platform to showcase the abilities of those with special needs and form relationships between children with special needs and their mainstream peers.

- To enable mainstream schools to address Equalities with their provision.

MASKS (Make a special kid smile) was established in 2005 to support the two special needs schools within the Vale Federation of Schools;Booker Park School and Stocklake Park School, plus the sixth form Harding House which has its own site.

Masks aims to provide the means to enrich and enhance the lives of the children attending these schools.

Sarah added: "only by informing and educating the next generation can we stop prejudice and abuse directed at those with special needs. Never has there been more of a need to inform and address this issue:

• 8 out of 10 children with learning disabilities are bullied

* By 2030 it is estimated that the number of younger adults with learning disabilities may rise by 32.2% as mortality among people with learning disabilities and children with severe and complex needs has reduced in recent years.

•It is widely anticipated that the proportion of children and young people who are disabled will increase. It is estimated there will be 1.25 million children reporting a disability by 2029. The reasons include improved diagnosis, reduced stigma in reporting disability and better survival rates for pre-term infants.

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