Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Kicking off Christmas with a Little Hiccups tradition

I'm now told by the Little Hiccups families that Christmas just isn't allowed to start until we've visited Sundown Adventureland. Every year we visit in early December and every year we come away with happy memories. The Little Hiccups facebook page fills up with raving reviews and pictures of smiling families. It really is one of our most cherished events.

If you haven't been to Sundown before its a theme park aimed at under 10's. The rides are more about sights and sounds than speed and there are plenty of soft play areas, playgrounds, rides, visual display amongst other delights all aimed at stimulating and tiring out those children of yours! But there is also plenty of food outlets to restock them as well for more fun. (More importantly though, there are many coffee outlets for the adults!) And what is more fun than visiting Santa and Mrs Claus at their home after riding a sleigh through a Christmas Wonderland. The Big Man is always friendly and approachable (of course!) and I hear reviews time and time again how this is the only place where a child has loved Santa at first sight. The elves on the door were also aware we were visiting that day and were ready to help out. We really couldn't ask for more! 

It certainly helps as well that the weather was unseasonably warm and dry. Visiting an outdoor attraction in December is always hit or miss but we seem to get lucky. Maybe there really is magic in Sundown... The mild weather didn't deter from the Christmas theme however as all the decorations and lights were in full splendour and when the sun went down we saw them in all their glory. 

This year was slightly different as it was Sundown Adventureland's 50th Birthday and they celebrated by opening the park to invite only and contacted local Charities to attend. The theme park attendees were limited to allow a relaxed session for the children and everything was free. As it was on a Friday however, a number of families were unable to attend due to work or school commitments. However, many could and as you can see from the feedback below it made for a truly magical and memorable event. 

"Thank you so much. Today has been amazing at sundown adventure land. My girls have thoroughly enjoyed themselves. My daughter has found a new love in the bears to the point we had to buy her very own ones from the gift shop. Its been truly magical. "
"Thank you little hiccups. We had an absolutely amazing time"
"Thank you so much Little Hiccups for today. it was magical."

"Huge Thank you !!!!"
"We have had the most amazing day! Massive thank you to Little Hiccups for inviting us to Sundown today. As part of Sundown’s 50th birthday celebration the park was closed to the public today and families with disabled children and those with life limiting conditions could enjoy a quieter park, a relaxed atmosphere and over all a spectacular day! Every little detail was thought of to make this day enjoyable and accessible for all !! Smiles all round here."

"We had the best day!!! Smiling from the second we got there... thank you again so much little hiccups."

"We just wanted to say a big Thankyou to you and everyone at Little Hiccups for organising Sundown on Sunday. We'd never been before and our boys absolutely loved it (as did we!)"
"Thank you for a lovely day!"
"Thank you Little hiccups for a fabulous day out. Fun was had by all the family. Thank you so so much everyone. Great day loads of family fun and a magical trip to Santa which Aiden loved. He even said to Santa "Please don't get stuck up the chiminy Santa" lol and gave him a hi 5. Xxx"

"Thank you so so much. My autistic little girl as well as her triplet sisters all had an absolutely fabulous time today. I cannot thank you all enough for organising and giving us a chance to have such a wonderful family day. I cried as this was the first time we didn’t have any tears with Santa they all loved it and went to sleep without a peep. Exhausted and happy. Thank you so much again. Awesome day."

"Wow what an amazing place! Thank you little hiccups for encouraging the trip down. We all loved it x"
"Thank you Little Hiccups, another wonderful day out for the children. We've had an amazing day."
"Merry Christmas all. Fantastic annual sundown trip. Thank you"
"Another fabulous outing thanks to Little Hiccups. Cameron had a brilliant day"

"Thank you for an awesome day! Owen is so proud that he passed his driving test in the dark."

Monday, 26 November 2018

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Chillin' at the cinema

We were back at the Showcase Cinema again this year. This time to see Smallfoot which is about Migo who is a friendly Yeti whose world gets turned upside down when he discovers something that he didn't know existed -- a human. He soon faces banishment from his snowy home when the rest of the villagers refuse to believe his fantastic tale. Hoping to prove them wrong, Migo embarks on an epic journey to find the mysterious creature that can put him back in good graces with his simple community. It was certainly exciting and the kids, as always, got involved in the movie. Granted - this may have been them joining in the songs or dancing in the aisles or jumping up and down whilst watching.

What I love about this event is the freedom that it allows. This event has become an annual tradition as the nasty weather starts to join us and its one that will hopefully continue as it is just so important that our families get to join in and do activities that one would normally consider an everyday activity. Its just so often the case that families feel that they are unable to go as they may be considered too disruptive. Well - in our cinema viewings - we encourage it!  We want the children to enjoy the movie however they want to enjoy it! And hopefully parents can relax knowing that every single person in that cinema understands and is in fact in the same situation. 

It does also give the freedom to take younger ones as well so the whole family gets to enjoy it. I, for example, took my toddler and I would NEVER normally do that. Mainly because for the last 40 minutes of the showing we went on a walk around and up and down the stairs. I got a good work out however and hopefully managed to work off some of the popcorn I had just been eating! 

We think next year that we'll need to work on the booking in process. The queue for signing in and collecting the snacks was a little bit too long. I'll be thinking on this and ways to improve the signing in process to make it a little bit more streamlined. 

But as always - a massive thank you to everyone at The Showcase for being so accommodating. See you next November! 

"Thank you for a lovely time at small foot Little Hiccup
s! Xx"

"Fun had by all at cinema to see Smallfoot. Aiden loved having his own chair and watching Migo fly through the sky! THANKYOU LITTLE HICCUPS for a lovely morning. Xxx"

"Thanks so much little hiccups we had a brilliant morning at the cinema xx"

"Thankyou little hiccups for a wonderful outing to the cinema xxxxxx"

"Thank you for organising, we all really enjoyed it xx"

" it was a fab event, thank you x"


What is Hydrotherapy and why Little Hiccups provides it.

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Little Hiccups provides Hydrotherapy sessions in collusion with Sportsworks and PT Kids. This year we were fortunate enough to secure a Grant from Big Lottery Fund which enabled us to provide 3 sets of 7 weeks to 12 families each time. That equals to 36 families that received Hydrotherapy through Little Hiccups this year.

A hydrotherapy pool is different to a typical swimming pool as the water is warmer (usually ranging between 33-36°C). And the pool we use at Armley Leisure Centre is fully accessible with Changing Places and hoists to allow all the children to access the pool. 

Its hard to explain why this is just so beneficial to the families involved. I could tell you that Hydrotherapy is ridiculously expensive (I've done a rough working out of our sessions and it works out about £90 for one 30 minute session for one child). And the majority of families are just unable to afford those kinds of costs. 

I could also tell you that Hydrotherapy is a good bonding session between parent and child. The children are receiving physiotherapy from trained physios in the water to help with their conditions but its FUN. The warmth of the water allows the children's muscles to relax and it eases the pain in their joints. They are exercising without knowing they are exercising. 

But above all we find it necessary. The feedback we get from families proves just how essential it is:
"I think Liam thought he was having another birthday- swimming whilst his pool buddies sang Disney songs to him- very happy boy! Maybe he will even sleep tonight!!!"

"I just wanted to send you a quick message to say thank you for having Rose on the hydrotherapy sessions, she really enjoyed it and she was started to show slight movement returning during and after the sessions. Hydrotherapy has been fantastic on helping Rose recover, so thank you again for helping us."

"Harry loved it and moved and kicked more than he ever has so that was great thank you"

"Just  a quick email to say that my kids absolutely loved the hydrotherapy! The help there was great and really understanding so a big thanks for organising - my kids were asking to go back the next day."

I also have so many families contacting me in regards to joining us on our Hydrotherapy sessions and we really do try too oblige them all.

Liam has low muscle tone and neuropathy which mean his legs do not work well and he cannot stand or walk unaided. He spends much of his time either in his wheelchair or kneeling on the ground. He misses the opportunities of other 8 year old children to exercise and run around. His legs need frequent stretching to help them maintain a small amount of functionality - which means he can weight bear and help with transfers which are essential to maintaining a bit of independence for Liam.

Liam is registered blind which means that he also loves the water and the sensory experiences he gets from being in a pool - touch and sounds particularly. 

There are many barriers to Liam accessing a pool as a 'normal' child. Liam requires hoisting which many facilities do not have. The specialised hydro pools are very expensive to access regularly and even then they do not include extra support once Liam is in the pool. He is very sensitive to the noise of other children - so a busy communal pool on a weekend is no good and he also needs two people to help in the water (when exiting the water particularly) and as he has siblings, it is not possible for his parents to do this alone. 

Liam finds new environments difficult to deal with. So the first time he went along to Hydrotherapy he was slightly cautious at first as his language is very limited so it is difficult to explain exactly what is going on.  He was anxious about getting in the pool, and nervous about the other people he could hear. This was helped by the reassuring welcome of the trained physios there, who were ready and expecting him. 

Over the 7 weeks Liam became not just confident but positively  eager to get to swimming. He started to remember some of the people's names who were in the pool with him, and ask for them as we approached the changing area.  He really  really enjoyed his sessions. They did his stretches in the water, great for Liam .They played games with him and included the other children which was a lovely opportunity to get him to 'socialise' - which he doesn't often get. By the end of the sessions he was 'standing up'  - weight bearing in the shallower end and 'jumping'  - something I've never seen him do before.  His confidence with the physios also meant he went from being unwilling to be on his front swimming, to choosing to swim on his front during his sessions.  It was great exercise for Liam, who's options for physical activity are very limited. 


Alexander is 17 months and has Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy. He is moderately affected and needs full support with sitting and he is non-mobile and non-verbal at present.

The hydrotherapy at Armley allowed him to engage in a fun and stimulating physical activity as well as offering him an opportunity to exercise and build up his core strength.

The accessible changing areas meant he could be easily changed and dried in a safe and secure manner. The accessible changing rooms also helped his mum as she didn’t have to bend and strain her back or worry that the changing bench was too hard for his head if he thrashed around.

Alexander was a little bit apprehensive at the start of the first session, but the warmth of the Hydrotherapy room meant he didn’t get too cold when undressing and changing and the warmth of the pool helped him to relax. The trained physios and volunteers were able to engage Alexander in a range of positions and moves that allowed him to safely stretch and relax his limbs with high tone and exercise and build up strength in his core.

The equipment available in the hydro room such as the float station net of balls and foam frog mats were appealing and encouraged Jacob to work that bit harder as they made the activity fun and stimulating. These extra pieces of equipment along with the room hire and access to qualified Physios are expensive and his parents would struggle to pay for the sessions if they were self-funded.

The staff were friendly and knew how to support Alexander in the pool which made him feel safe and allowed him to concentrate on the therapy exercises. As the sessions progressed Alexander became increasingly confident in sitting on the float station and moving around the pool with the physio on the foam frog!

Just before we started hydrotherapy we found out that Anna had an unsafe swallow of liquids, with silent aspiration. The hydrotherapy sessions showed us how to hold Annasafely in the water so she keeps her face dry and exercises to help her to use her legs in the water and ease leg stiffness. Since the hydrotherapy sessions we have been able to take Annaswimming ourselves and keep her safe in the water. Anna is looking forward to continuing hydrotherapy sessions once she starts at specialist school in September.

*All names of children have been changed.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Sailing Away

So for a little while now, one of our Trustees has been trying to get me to book a Little Hiccups trip on canal boats run by The Safe Anchor Trust in Mirfield. He had been to one of their Open Days and was blown away by what he witnessed. This year we finally organised it and are very glad we did! 

After a lot of emails back and forth, the very patient volunteers at The Safe Anchor Trust managed to answer all my questions (sea monsters were queried at one point but I was reassured that there were none in the canals). We finalised our trip for Oct 28th and I opened up bookings.

There was a smallish issue on the week of the trip in that one of the boats ended up with a broken part and from two trips with three boats we had to change to three trips with two boats. One of these boats was still able to take wheelchairs so we were good to go!

The boat trip was certainly on a beautiful part of the River Calder and we managed to take many scenic pictures and spotted a variety of wildlife on the river. It was peaceful and relaxing but never boring. The roughly two hour trip managed to hold the attention of adults and children alike and both were also allowed sit indoors or outdoors or to even have a go at steering. My boy in particular was thrilled to be able to steer a boat and even managed to manoeuvre it through a bridge without crashing into the sides. Something I was quite pleased about!

The impressive thing about the canal boats at The Safe Anchor Trust is their accessibility and this is why we were able to join them for the day. They had a lift to allow wheelchairs and pushchairs into the boat and the toilets were fully wheelchair accessible. The lift also gave the children access to steer the boat as well if they wanted to. No child was left behind!

The canal boats also went through a lock which allowed the families to see how one works close up and personal and for the more mobile there was also the opportunity to have a go opening and closing the lock gates too. Again, my children jumped at this possibility and they absolutely loved pushing the large wooden gates open and closed and watching the boat rise to the level of the next bit of canal.

The weather was a bit hit and miss on the day (but considering it was late October we were very lucky still). The little group I was on with during the first trip had a crisp but sunny October morning. The next group I believe had just rain! From the feedback and the pictures however, it didn't seem to dampen any spirits and it seemed to be a trip that was much loved. Sometimes, its just nice to slow down once in a while it seems and enjoy the moment rather than seeking the thrills.

A massive thank you to all the volunteers from Little Hiccups to the Safe Anchor Trust who did this free of charge. Little Hiccups donated all the ticket fees straight to them to help fund their charity and I've plans for a return trip in the summer one year. Picnic by the canal anybody?

"Once again, thanks to Little Hiccups we’ve got Oliver to do something which we wouldn’t have dared attempt on our own. So impressed he actually got on the boat .. thank you""What a fantastic experience today was. Thanks to Little Hiccups for making this possible."
"A great afternoon spent on the canal and River Calder. Thanks to Little Hiccups."

"What a lovely fun afternoon on the canal. Thanks again Little Hiccups for another fab trip!"

"Thank you once again Little Hiccups for such a wonderful trip. What a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon, despite the rain!"
"The rain didn't stop play what a trip thank you"
"Thank you Little Hiccups brilliant day on the boat xxx"
"Thank you so much. We loved our adventure on the canal boats."

"Before we embarked onto the Lady Rhodes, Nathan got quite distressed because he had to wear a life jacket, but on the narrow boat itself, he "loved it", and even had a little go at steering, and mum even had a go, and didn't even crash the boat lol! "So all good!""

Tuesday, 25 September 2018


We'd had a few requests for a bowling event so I thought we'd give it a go. It was never going to be an easy event to organise as bowling is by its very nature, a noisy sport! I approached a few bowling alleys in Leeds but wasn't having much luck. They promised to be very busy and the alleys concerned were hard to contact and wouldn't turn down the music for our session. I put word out to the families to ask their opinion and got a very help suggestion from one...to go speak to Barnsley Bowl. I promptly did so and found a completely different attitude. They were helpful, responsive and willing to make changes to suit our group. Nothing was too much trouble for them. I very quickly booked a date with them and spread the word.

We arrived on the day and I had several staff helping with the changes that occurred as we'd had a couple of last minute swaps. Every family had 2 games and we had the usual Hiccups fun and chaos that comes from a Hiccups event. What was important though was that families were relaxed and enjoying family time. The children coped incredibly well with the noise of the pins and bowling bowls and it was lovely to see so many involved. Wheelchairs, for example weren't a problem either. And for those that struggled to lift the bowling balls there were bowling ramps to help them. Everyone could have a go if they wanted to!

We'd also ordered a buffet and there was more than enough to feed everyone! There was so much left at the end that several of us took a pack up for our lunches the next day AND we left some to put out on the counter for the other visitors and staff if they wanted it. We'd also asked if they were able to provide a vegan option and they really outdid themselves. The amount and quality of vegan food they supplied was incredibly decision and certainly better than your custom salad! 

A lot of games stopped for the food but what was lovely is that they were able to pick them back up again after if the family wanted. Some, like mine, skipped back and forth between food and bowling. Others rejoined the game as a family after. There was no pressure and no rushing. I certainly think that we'll be back at Barnsley Bowl again. Thank you to everyone that works there that helped us that day.

"Thank you Little Hiccups for bowling Nile loved it. Even though the kids won! High 5 Jack and Nile x"

"Thank you for a brilliant day out yesterday. Yusuf said it’s the best day his ever had. All the kids said it was The best a fantastic day. Buffet was great also. Kids loved the cheese cakes. X"

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

The day Little Hiccups goes classy (well...as close as we can!)

Last year Little Hiccups envisioned a slightly more sophisticated Family Fun Day for the children as they are unable to attend the Hiccups Event of the Year - our Fundraising Ball (November 24th this year - you can book online here: http://www.littlehiccups.co.uk/charityball/). Our wondering thoughts led us to an Afternoon Tea Party (because who can turn down cake) and when Iveridge Hall offered us their gardens to use for a Hiccups event we jumped at the opportunity to put our plans into action. Last year was a huge success and we had wonderful food in wonderful surroundings. We had many requests to repeat it this year and were happy to oblige.

The owners of Iveridge Hall, Graham and Linda, were generous enough to lend us their gardens and facilities again which were very gratefully received. We also thought the food was so delicious last year that we approached the same caterers. Since last August, they have moved from their Caravan, Rosie, that travelled to events to their very own cafe - Hart Coffee House and Deli in Boston Spa. They were still happy to help us out though and the food and crockery was all thanks to them. The cakes were particularly beautiful with masses of creamy icing on top of delicious, moist sponge. (My mouth is actually watering thinking about them again! If you are ever in Boston Spa, I recommend paying them a visit and sampling one (or two!) of the cakes! There was so much food left over unfortunately that we need to remember to ask people to bring some tupperwear with them next year so that they can take some home with them. This year, our Chairperson Sarah, nipped into the Leeds General Infirmary Children's Ward and St Georges Crypt after the event and made sure that no food went to waste.

As sophisticated as Afternoon Tea is, we decided that the children required entertainment and possibly to burn off all the sugar that we had just supplied them with. With this in mind we hired a bouncy castle and a Soft Play area complete with bouncy unicorns (which my toddler was particularly fond of!) from Bounce and Wobble. Got to say - not sure if it burnt energy off or just gave them boundless more but they certainly seemed to enjoy themselves.

This year it was also through that it would be nice to have a calmer sensory corner for those either less mobile or that wanted to escape the noise and inevitable giddiness that comes with a bouncy castle. After some home crafting and raiding of the Hiccups storage unit, I think the Trustees managed to put together quite a nice and magical little area of the garden to escape into. 

And of course, no 'posh' event is complete without horses so of course we had to see if we could hire some. We were lucky enough to be able to hire KL Therapy Ponies last minute and they brought with them two of the most adorable miniature horses that I, and everyone else, fell in love with straight away. They were the most docile creatures and loved sampling the grass at Iveridge Hall. The children enjoyed stroking, brushing, plaiting manes and holding the reins. I think the ponies quite enjoyed all the attention too!

All in all, it was a lovely day, with lovely company and great food and entertainment. Even the weather behaved and it was certainly hit and miss leading up to the event. I'd been watching the forecast all week and it was a complete tease with showers changing to rain changing to storms, back to clear then showers, etc. In the end it behaved itself. We had a very light drizzle but then it was cloudy and just warm enough. Which in my mind is the perfect summer day but then I am ginger and hide from any sun so some may disagree with me on this!

Thank you to everyone that came and helped make it such a special day.

"Thank you once again Little Hiccups for such a lovely afternoon tea, with great food, great company and a great place to visit! It was also lovely to meet some new faces as well, already looking forward to the next outing xxx"

"Thanks for the lovely tea party, Jacob loved the sensory garden as you can see x"

"Thank you for another fabulous afternoon tea xx"