Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Making Sport Accessible for every child

Local support group Little Hiccups is seeking funding to start a regular disability multi-sports event for Under 8’s.

The group enjoying the Disabled Sports Day
Scientific research across disability groups reveals participation in sport and physical activity leads to improved levels of physical health and well-being.

Most Sports Centre’s now offer Disability Multi-Sports Day but these are generally aimed at children over the age of 8. For those parents with under 8’s there is very little out there. 

If you have a child with special needs or disabilities you will know the frustration of trying to find a sport activity that your child can join in.

Most mainstream sports accept all children but the reality is that a child with disabilities just cannot compete at the same level as the rest of the team.

Little Hiccups, a Yorkshire based group that provides support for families who have children with special needs or disabilities, recently arranged for a Disability Multi-Sport Day for Under 8’s which was accessible to all.

It was run by two coaches, Brad Spurrs and Nick Smith who were excellent role models for the children as both have a disability and compete to quite a high level in their respective sports – Brad in cricket and Nick in Wheelchair Racing.

Coaches Brad and Nick entertained the children beautifully with fun and accessible playground games and FUNdamentals which was basic coordination games.

Isabelle enjoying the sports day
Rochelle, mum of Isabelle visited the disability multi-sport day that Little Hiccups organised. She says “There is just nothing out there for young disabled children, and Isabelle had a great time on the day we attended. It's rare that she gets to join in sports and activities that able bodied children are able to access as most are geared towards children who can run or jump, or older disabled children. It just doesn't seem fair! I think it'd be great for their physical and social development.”

Coach Brad Spurrs understands more than most the frustration of being unable to participate in mainstream sports and is keen to support Little Hiccups in this venture.

Sasha Hopkinson, mum of a disabled child says “we are yet to come across any sport via Leeds City Council or other  for under 8’s that will  provide for Adam, with his level of understanding and physical ability”. She is one of the families keen to join in Little Hiccup’s scheme.

Little Hiccups Event Organiser, Miriam Watson says “Little Hiccups is all about allowing children with disabilities to access areas they perhaps could not normally access. On organising our multi-sport event, we were surprised to find that there was not more out there for under 8’s and from the feedback from families there is obviously a demand.  It is vital that we get the financial support as it cannot go ahead without this.”

Little Hiccups is a support group that has been set up by families who have children with special needs.

Through personal experience they recognise the importance of allowing the parents and families of a child with a disability the opportunity to meet people in similar situations, to make friends and support each other. Little Hiccups runs a bi-monthly support group for under 5’s in Leeds and organises a fun monthly outing that the whole family can attend.

You can contact Little Hiccups through our website, by email on or mobile on 0783 123 0741.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

What is big, shiny, loud and can fit small children inside?

This is a picture of my euphonium…  What’s a euphonium?  Well I normally describe it as a small tuba or big trumpet, but it’s big, shiny and loud and small children could fit into it!  Most people have never heard of a euphonium and I’m not quite sure how I ended up playing it, but I’m very glad I did as it started my love for all things musical!  I also love singing and, together with Hannah, have been coming along to Little Hiccups since 2010 to run music sessions with the Thursday group.  Running sessions at Little Hiccups encouraged us to set up our own early years classes called Tiny Tempo which we've been running for nearly two years now (

Even before they’re born, babies are listening to sounds or feeling vibrations and music can help babies and children to relax, to get excited, to bond with their parents and to communicate.  Every child is different and responds to and dislikes different sounds and sensory stimuli.  We plan sessions for Little Hiccups to incorporate all the senses and explore these likes and dislikes; from a hungry caterpillar session with tasters of different food to country garden sessions outside, complete with flute and euphonium duets (you haven’t heard this particular combination of instruments very often for a reason, but we like it…!)

We have loads of different percussion instruments and materials to feel and look at; shiny material with ribbons, animal fur, jangling tambourines and clock-like claves.  We try to have something for everyone and do whatever we can to include everyone and their personal preferences in each session. We even learnt every song from Frozen following a request from a child at Hannah House where we also work (and tried to pretend we didn’t love every second…!) At Little Hiccups, we try to include parents as much as possible and give simple ideas for things that you can do yourselves at home.  We think everyone can sing and enjoy music with their children, and try our hardest to make everyone feel comfortable with music, whatever their experience.

Little Hiccups is a very special and supportive group of people and we love our sessions there.  On a personal level, they have supported me through losing some of my eyesight a few years ago and being registered as visually impaired.  Having the continuity of the sessions there and the support of everyone to carry on with music really made a difference to me and is one of the reasons that I’m still working today.  I may not recognise anyone in the street but I can from the first note they sing!

Kathryn O'Doherty (Tiny Tempo)

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

The peoples march for the NHS

Below are the thoughts written by one of our families who are fighting to keep our NHS by joining the People’s March for the NHS which aims to highlight the rapid dismantling, privatisation and destruction of the NHS. First we had the Health & Social Care Act, then Section 75 and more recently Clause 119 of the Care Bill. The Government have legislated to open the NHS to the open market. The People’s March for the NHS believe every penny saved in the NHS should go back into improving and developing our NHS. They don't want to see private companies operating in the NHS under the heading of 'efficiency' when they know they are accountable to their share holders, who are only interested in maximum profit before patient health care. They encourage anyone to join them for a mile or two, or join them for ten or the full 300 miles, come to our rallies, just be part of the fightback.The March is still ongoing.

 Our family joined them in Leeds and they shared their thoughts below:

"On Friday 22nd August we joined the People’s March for the NHS. We (Mick, Helen and Rosy) marched from Headingley to Leeds City Centre. We joined the Darlington Mums who set out on a 300 mile march from Jarrow on 16th August and will arrive at the Houses of Parliament on the 6th September. The intention of the March is to publicise the creeping privatisation of the NHS which has accelerated since the passing of the Health and Social Care Act 2012. We decided to march in support of the NHS and against politicians and their mates picking it to pieces for profit. Our lives turned upside down in Sept/Oct 2011 when Emily (our youngest Daughter) started having infantile spasms and this has brought numerous stresses and strains. The idea of also having to worry how we would pay for the many medications Emily needs or that her care might be judged on how much profit can be made from it is frightening. You don’t know what you have got until it has gone. So please let the NHS focus on care and not cash."

For further information of the People’s March see link:

Follow on Facebook: 999callforNHS
Follow on Twitter: #march4NHS

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The Million Steps Fundraiser

The below was written by Rob Heckman for a Spanish publication. Rob is the son of Vince Heckman who is the very kind gentleman who bought an donated a Kangoo for Little Hiccups before even meeting us! It goes to show taht there are some truly amazing people in this world and I'll be honest - I meet a LOT through Little Hiccups. I think you'll agree that the article below is well worth a read! And many thanks to everyone who helped that day as we raised over the fantastic amount of £1200. You can read more of the Million Steps Challenge on our website at:

"Social media is often portrayed as a negative aspect of the modern world. However some good can come from it. A year ago, we started to help out an anti-knife crime charity called Billy’s Wish that was organised by a close family friend whose son was tragically murdered. After working closely with the charity, our friend Paul Dove introduced us to another friend of his that had helped organise a day of football activities to fund raise for Billy’s Wish, Brendan O’Connor. We became very close friends and thanks to him we became aware of another charity named Little Hiccups which is based in Leeds and aims to help children with special needs and disabilities.

After hearing about this charity and what the mothers and children have been through, we felt the need to help out and support their cause. First of all we made a donation to the charity however after reading about a special needs buggy called a Kangoo, we decided that we would buy and donate a Kangoo buggy to Little Hiccups to give the children the opportunity to go places where no other buggy can go as the Kangoo buggy can be taken on terrains such as sand, woodland and even snow! It can be converted into a car seat and it also securely straps the child in so the mother can even travel down stairs putting the child at no risk.

After much talk with Brendan O’Connor, he informed us that a friend of his named Antony Newby was organising a fund raising event in Leeds that consisted in over 250 people running up 1,000,000 stairs. After much preparation, the day finally arrived and professional boxers such as China Clarke participated in the challenge along with everyone else. The target of a million stairs was completely smashed as the final tally that was counted was 1,219,786 stairs in around 6 hours! During this event, there was also the presentation of the donated Kangoo buggy to Little Hiccups. Former boxing world champion John H Stracey was kind enough to not only present the Kangoo buggy to the charity, but to also donate a signed photo collage of his career to help raise money for Little Hiccups.

After this chain of events helping out Billy’s Wish and Little Hiccups, us as a company have come to realise that there is a positive side from social media due to the fact that without it, we would have most likely never been introduced to Little Hiccups and therefore, we would have never been able to help out these two charities that our close to our hearts.

For any details on how to make a donation to either Billy’s wish or Little Hiccups, please follow the web addresses below."

Written by Rob Heckman

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Fun at the beach

This picture for me says it all. Meet Jack (in orange), Jenna (in the rainbow) and Lindsay. I’m Katy and behind the camera. Jack is eight years old. Jenna is three and a half. The last time Jack was on the beach Jenna wasn’t even born. Accessing the beach before this day was ni-on impossible.

In the February half term a few parents from the Leeds based support group for families of children with disabilities Little Hiccups joined several other families for a leisurely stroll (and a few races) along Bridlington’s north beach. The difference between ourselves and the other families we met was that three of our children have complex health needs.  

National statistics back up what we as parents and carers already know. Children with complex disabilities (physical, sensory, behavioural, emotional etc etc) remain significantly less likely to participate in leisure and sporting activities than non-disabled children. Including strolling along the beach, country parks, historical sites, skiing, and family bike rides. The majority of things we as children probably took for granted. This is not to say that it is impossible for everyone, but have you ever tried carrying a bucket and spade, suction machine, feed pump, oxygen, emergency medication, changing items, food and drinks whilst manovering a 25kg child in a 25kg wheelchair with wheels as small as a computer chair on wet sand. Believe me it’s training for any solider!

Rather than accepting total defeat we at Little Hiccups searched for an all-terrain wheelchair and thankfully found the Kangoo.

What’s so special about this wheelchair?
This wheelchair is amazing!! It's versatile and practical (two things every parent loves). With various attachments it can be taken on the beach, parkland, forests, attaches to a bike as a trailer, converts to a car seat and even has ski's! It comes in a range of colours and even has wipe down material.

For all the family it’s fun! The last time Jenna and I raced in her wheelchair buggy was against my seven year old niece in Toulouse Airport killing time waiting for our plane. Apart from the odd holiday maker and piece of hand luggage the terrain was totally flat. I’ll admit now (hoping our rep doesn’t read this) I think that’s possibly where we broke the suspension. That was fun, and tiring for Ruby and I, Jenna not so much. Compare that to eleven year old Georgia and I racing Jack and Jenna across the bumpy sand, splashing in puddles, legs kicking, gasping against the sea air and their beautiful smiles show it’s no contest.

Exhausted for all the right reasons, walking back up the beech we met Tracey and James waiting patiently on the ramp. Lindsay, Jack and Georgia sped ahead chatting to the kind rep who drove the length of the country to let us play in the sand. Walking with Tracey pushing James in his own chair back up the ramp I didn’t need to ask them how accessible they thought the Kangoo was. I could see for myself every few steps Tracey, heaving, pushing and willing James’ chair up over the slippery cobbles whilst I one handed pushed Jenna in the Kangoo and filmed them struggling.

Once together we dissected test day two and I asked them what the day had been like:

‘’This is awesome’’ (Lindsay)

‘Sooo much easier than James chair’ (Georgia)

‘It’s so much comfier than my own chair, comfier than a car seat…’ (James)

‘How about compared to a sofa’ (me), ‘Yeah, just like the sofa’ (James).

‘I’ll get to do loads more now, can we take this on our holiday this year’ (James).

Why is this so important?
Recently I was chatting to a family member who visited a country park where we first tested the Kangoo. I asked if he’d had a nice time and what they’d enjoyed as a family.

“Nice place but there’s not much there,” he replied.

I might have been incredulous had I not been accustomed to such responses, for over the past three years since having my daughter I learnt that sometimes those who can see, see little. How was it possible, I asked myself, to walk for an hour through the woods and see nothing worthy of note? Linsay and I, parents of children with severe sight impairments search endlessly for things that interest Jack and Jenna through touch, smell and sound. Taking the two in the Kangoo wheelchairs into the woods to feel the delicate symmetry of a leaf, pass their hands lovingly about the smooth skin of a silver birch, or the rough, shaggy bark of a pine is priceless. Thinking of the spring to come and imagining taking them into the woods to experience the first signs of awakening nature after her winter’s sleep. To feel the cool wetter air, the smell of sweet, damp earth, hearing the birds in the trees, touching the velvety texture of a flower and discover its remarkable convolutions is unbelievably exciting.

As parents of children with disabilities/sensory impairments/additional needs we are compelled to be creative in the ways in which we teach our children. The Kangoo’s versatility and practicality overcomes a huge accessibility barrier.  We hope that giving family’s access to use these wheelchairs for day trips like ours, weekends and holidays will give something more than just a single moment in time, but enriches their lives and give their families life long memories (and if like us a hundred new photo’s to share with family and friends). 

Written by Katy Swinhoe

From the left that’s me with James, Lindsay, Georgia and Jenna in the middle and Tracy with Jack on the right.