Category Archives: Spotlight

Daytrippers New Year Baby: Elliott Preston

Daytrippers New Year Baby - 6 Month Old Elliott Preston

Daytrippers New Year Baby – 6 Month Old Elliott Preston

Nurse and mother-of-three MELANIE PRESTON from Knoxville, Tennessee writes about life with Daytrippers New Year Baby; ELLIOTT PRESTON.  Melanie has agreed to regularly update We Are Daytrippers (THANK YOU!) to share with readers about her experience caring for a child with down syndrome.  (Don’t miss the beautiful photos of Elliott’s previous five months at the end of this post).

Melanie’s update:

“Last year this same week we found out Elliott would have an extra chromosome and while I wasn’t shocked, it certainly wasn’t what I “wanted” … fast forward to the beginning of 2015 and he is everything we wanted, needed and more!

I suppose it’s fair to say he makes us appreciate the little things in life more.  Things that I’ve never even considered with my other children … like reaching for toys, propping up on elbows and then hands, et cetera.  Sure, I remember Elliotts siblings milestones (mostly because one was super late and the other was super freakishly early); but did I celebrate them?  Not like we do (and will) with Elliott.

There is just so much work involved for something so simple like reaching his hands above his shoulder height (that was a huge one!).  Low muscle tone is also a subject of concern.  It is real and fascinating.  One of the neatest things to see is his older sister (by 17 months) is his biggest cheerleader.  She claps and jumps up and down for him – it’s adorable and I hope she remains his biggest advocate throughout his entire life.

The Preston Family

The Preston Family

Overall, Elliott is doing well developmentally for a child with down syndrome. We are working with physical therapists to help him sit and he is making huge strides.  The occupational therapist discharged him because he had met current goals and will re-evaluate when he is around 10 months.  He is about to start some puréed foods so we have an evaluation with speech therapy just so they can see how he does.  Speaking of appointments … can you say more than we can count?  Seriously!  It’s been busy in the Preston household. That’s really the only “change” to our lives in the past year and to be fair – a lot of those appointments are not only Elliott’s but his siblings as well, so it could also be very much part of having three kids?!

We have a cardiology appointment coming up in a few weeks to see how the two holes in his heart are healing so that’s our next big “thing.”  We have been so thankful this year to have had a positive experience through diagnosis, delivery, and beyond.  It’s very helpful to be surrounded by so many supportive family, friends and medical professionals but sadly I am incredibly aware that is not the norm.  Sure Elliott is different but so what!  (Aren’t we all?).   Difference is what makes us unique and he is certainly no less unique than I am!  So Happy New Year 2015 and cheers to being maybe not so different after all?”

Past articles with Melanie and Elliott:

  • Read about when Melanie found out she was having a baby with down syndrome: http://wp.me/p4FQqM-11
  • Read about when Melanie delivered Elliott herself in the car (a shock to all!): http://wp.me/p4FQqM-2v
  • Read about Elliott’s first month of life:  http://wp.me/p4FQqM-3R

We cannot get enough of these adorable pictures of Elliott’s first five months:

Elliott Preston in the NICU

Elliott Preston in the NICU

 

 

Elliott Preston - 1 Month Old

Elliott – 1 Month Old

 

Elliott - 2 Months Old

Elliott – 2 Months Old

 

Elliott - 3 Months Old

Elliott – 3 Months Old

 

Elliott - 4 Months Old

Elliott – 4 Months Old

 

 

 

Elliott - 5 Month Old

Elliott – 5 Month Old

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When I was a kid: Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky

 

NOAM CHOMSKY, the eighty-five year old Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, finally took the bait.  After writing a love letter to him in September he responded that he appreciated it and also wrote that Daytrippers Children’s Charity was “a wonderful mission and when asked his favourite thing to do as a child; he said:

 

“I guess my favorite thing to do as a young child was to play all day at the beach in the summer, and when I was a little older, to curl up in a corner with a pile of books.”

Noam Chomsky as a child

Noam Chomsky as a child

Noam Chomsky was born in 1928 in Philadelphia, a point in time that seems distant to most of us; yet childhood enjoyments remain the same in any era.  We love the thought of a young Noam tucked in a small space reading countless books, questioning everything he read and unaware of the man he would eventually become – it aligns with his remarkably insatiable quest for knowledge, transformation, excellence and philosophy of the mind.

Daytrippers receives many applications to fund group days out to the seaside.  For some kids, it might be the first or only time they will ever experience the beach.  In Chomsky’s quote for We Are Daytrippers about his favourite thing to do as a child, Mr. Chomsky reminds us that a day at the beach and having the time to read a good book is full of rewards.

Thank you to Noam Chomsky for your contribution!

Love,

The Daytrippers Team

Does Mr. Chomsky like books or what?

Does Mr. Chomsky like books or what?

Connect with Mr. Chomsky:  http://www.chomsky.info/

 

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Spotlight: Frozen Light Multi-Sensory Theatre

Last year Charlotte from The Daytrippers Team mentioned reading about an innovative special needs theatre production team called FROZEN LIGHT that focuses on performing shows for audiences with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities (PMLD).  The more we poked around the website, the more we realised it was, indeed; very cool and a perfect match for Daytrippers.  As if by fate, one day we received an e-mail from Amber Onat Gregory, one of the co-founders of Frozen Light and an expert in multi-sensory theatre performance.  We look forward to collaborating with her in the future, but first, she agreed to an interview with We Are Daytrippers.

Smiles all around from Frozen Light's audience at The Arts Centre.

Smiles all around from Frozen Light’s audience at The Arts Centre.

The Daytrippers Team: Who are Frozen Light and how did you come about?

Amber Onat Gregory: Lucy Garland and I met at The University of Kent where we did a Masters in Applied Drama which involved working very practically with community groups.  One of our projects was working in a special school developing a theatre production for a class of teenagers with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities (PMLD).  Inspired by the sensory work of Oily Cart and the storytelling techniques of Louise Coigley (Lis’n Tell) we began fashioning our own form of multi-sensory storytelling for audiences with PMLD.  After going our separate ways after university, where we both continued to create small scale sensory storytelling shows that toured special schools, we decided to come together six years later to heighten the quality of our work and take it into theatres.

We received a grant from the Arts Council England in 2012 to create a show for teenage audiences with PMLD which resulted in the creation of Tunnels.  Through the success of Tunnels we decided to create Frozen Light- a theatre company dedicated to creating theatre for audiences with PMLD to tour mainstream theatre venues.  By putting the work into theatres we wanted to raise the quality of the theatre that we were creating through the use of larger sets and theatrical lighting.  As theatre lovers ourselves we were also keen to look at how venues could become more accessible for people with PMLD.

From January- June 2014 Tunnels toured to 18 venues across the UK and reached over 400 people with PMLD plus an additional 500 carers, friends and family. Out of those 400 audience members with PMLD we discovered that 41% had never accessed the theatre before.  This was something that we had suspected but seeing the actual figures, collected from carers and families filling out feedback forms, we were quite shocked.  This really cemented for us the need to continue to create accessible multi-sensory theatre for audiences with PMLD and to work with theatres to programme more accessible shows.

The Daytrippers Team: Why is the multi-sensory aspect so integral to the production?

Amber Onat Gregory: By having multi-sensory elements throughout the show we have been able to create an accessible and theatrical environment that responds to the needs of our audiences.  Most of the multi-sensory elements are performed as an individual interaction between audience member and performer.  As a performer we step into the world of the person with PMLD rather than making them come into ours.  This one to one interaction gives us the opportunity to experience unique moments with our audience and give them the chance to explore the story using their senses.

Smiles all around from the audience at Frozen Light.

Smiles all around from the audience at Frozen Light.

The Daytrippers Team: What interested you in creating theatre for such a specific audience?

Amber Onat Gregory:  We have been working with people with learning disabilities for many years- both as performers and also in the care sector.  As well as performing, I used to work supply as a Teaching Assistant in special schools around London and Lucy worked as a support worker in a day centre for adults with learning disabilities.  As people who work in the theatre industry we have seen how theatres across the UK are trying to improve their accessibility and the post of an Access Manager is becoming more common. Theatres are making their venues more accessible with ramps, toilets, hearing loops, sign interpretation, and even programming relaxed performances for audiences with autism.  All of this is absolutely fantastic but there is still minimal work being programmed specifically for audiences with PMLD.  People with PMLD often find it difficult to access mainstream theatre shows for many reasons: the stage is too far away; the text is complicated; the only senses that are really used are sight and sound (very difficult for people with sensory impairments) and you are expected to sit in one spot and stay silent.  All of this on top of large audiences and mobility needs makes mainstream theatre almost unapproachable.  It is exciting to be making work for an audience who may be seeing theatre for the very first time.  Creating work for an audience who are not your average theatre goers is extremely liberating as so many of the usual theatre traditions are taken away which gives you a lot of artistic freedom when creating the work.  Due to the interactive nature of the production no two performances are the same which is also refreshing as a performer.

The Daytrippers Team: Is your show only for people with PMLD?

Amber Onat Gregory: When we created Tunnels we always had our specific audience in mind and all artistic decisions are created thinking about the responses of our audience.  We are also aware however that we all like to go to the theatre with our friends and family.  In our tour we did shows for both school groups and the general public.  It was our general public shows that got some of the best responses- audiences who had come together as a family.  When we created the show we made sure the production was an enchanting and mystical story that can be enjoyed by the whole family.  Even though there are a lot of one-to-one moments there are also many collective moments that the audience can enjoy together.

The Daytrippers Team:  What kind responses do you get from your audience?

Amber Onat Gregory:  We received really positive responses from all of our audiences- this includes companions, siblings, parents, grandparents, and of course- our teenage audience.  We were told many times that this was the first time that someone had ever been to the theatre and that there needed to be more accessible opportunities like this. One family who saw the show at The New Wolsey in Ipswich said:

A surprise visit from family including 2 teenagers with PMLD gave me the ideal excuse to experience this wonderful show. I loved it! The performers were so committed to involving everyone, even a 6yr old with an obsessive need to understand how everything works!  Our group included people from age 6 to 87, some with learning disabilities of varying levels, some without. We all enjoyed it equally which says it all for me, totally inclusive and completely enthralling. Thank you!’

Another mother who brought her daughter spoke about how relaxing it was to come and see a show without feeling judged by others,

In our world there is the constant frustration of “where can we go where there is no one staring, where not only Lauren is having a great time but as a parent we can relax and just revel in her enjoyment, where she is the majority not a minority ” well in just under an hour TUNNELS achieved all of this and more!

These comments from our audiences really demonstrate everything that we are trying to achieve through setting up Frozen Light.

The Daytrippers Team: What’s next for Frozen Light?

Amber Onat Gregory: We have just started to develop our next show The Forest. We have been fortunate enough to once again to receive funding from the Arts Council England for the development of the show as well as developing our audiences.  This project will take place over the length of a year and we plan to tour our new show in Autumn 2015.  We have also received a grant of £2500 from the Bruce Wake Trust (who also organise accessible boating holidays for people with disabilities) and £5000 from the Stanley Thomas Johnson Foundation.  We are incredibly grateful for the support we receive from trusts and foundations as without it our work would not be possible.

Our new show will be for teenage and adult audiences with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities (PMLD).  We created Tunnels for teenagers but had many adults with PMLD access the show with their families and carers.  There is very limited accessible arts opportunities for adults with PMLD therefore this is an audience that we really hope to develop.

We will be booking the tour this October so please do get in touch if you know of a theatre venue near you that you would like us to visit.

Connect with Frozen Light’s Amber Onat Gregory:

@Frozentheatre

info@frozenlighttheatrecom

http://www.frozenlighttheatre.com

 

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Spotlight: Treehouse at Number Nine

Come on over the No. 9 !

Come on over to No. 9 !

Psst!  We Are Daytrippers recently found out about an incredible group of kids on a continuous adventure … The Genies Gang who meet at The Treehouse at Number Nine.  This brand new app for ipad will soon become available in other mobile formats, but for the lucky few who have the opportunity to check it out now; you will not be disappointed.

Meet The Genies Gang

Meet The Genies Gang

From a Daytrippers Children’s Charity perspective; the stories about The Genies Gang seem to mirror many of our supporters, kids, families and carers lives that we want to be one of the first charities to promote this app with special music dynamics and lots of FUN included!1743440_803765823020510_7625435839778357228_n

Get to know Angel, Ted, Macro, Jow, Oscar, Cee-Cee and more who all have special genes that make them the fantastic characters they are.  This is just the beginning of The Treehouse at Number Nine so do stay updated, like their Facebook page, follow the gang on Twitter @TreehouseGenies but most importantly download the app first:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/treehouse-at-number-nine/id941368980?mt=8

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