LOVE LOCAL CHARITIES: Portsmouth group provides a lifeline for children with Down syndrome

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Sam, 10, and Lucy Ford meet characters from Frozen Picture: Steve Reid/Blitz Photography
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The News is starting a series profiling charities in our area which will highlight the valuable work they do

Finding out you have a child with Down Syndrome can be a bit of a shock.

Chairwoman of Portsmouth Down Syndrome Association Rachael Ross ''Picture: Sarah Standing (150590-2802)

Chairwoman of Portsmouth Down Syndrome Association Rachael Ross ''Picture: Sarah Standing (150590-2802)

Many parents might find that they struggle to cope when they hear the news.

But that’s what the Portsmouth Down Syndrome Association is there for.

The charity, known to many as Foorprints, is committed to improving the lives of children with Down Syndrome, by providing friendship, advice and a range of specialist and progressive educational services from birth, which they wouldn’t otherwise receive.

Rachael Ross is chairwoman of the charity.

It’s a great feeling when we succeed in raising awareness in schools and the local community

Rachael Ross, chair

She said: ‘The charity is largely managed by a very small but fantastic team of six dedicated full and part-time volunteers, who all have a child with Down Syndrome.

‘I work as a full-time volunteer, and I love my job. It’s exciting and diverse.

‘It’s a great feeling when we succeed in raising awareness in schools and the local community.

‘Best of all, I never fail to be impressed by all our children who can achieve with the right support.

‘That makes all the hard work worthwhile.’

The charity provides an extensive range of specialist educational services including communication sessions where children work hard to improve their speech and conversational skills. They also provide early development groups helping to prepare children for school and to reach their developmental milestones.

The charity also runs a Schools Advisory Service which supports children in 45 mainstream schools across the region. Rachael added: ‘Portsmouth DSA is the only specialist Down Syndrome organisation based in Hampshire offering such a range of extensive services.

‘We provide some of the best services in the country, and probably provide the best specialist school service in the country. Families with a child with a disability can feel isolated, so we also make sure that we provide lots of social opportunities for our families to come together, share experiences and have fun.

‘Through our activities and social opportunities, we help enable children to develop the vital skills they need to succeed. And it helps them become valued and productive members of society.

‘We have had feedback from the schools that say it’s a real lifeline.

‘To parents we offer friendship and support.’

Portsmouth Down Syndrome Association is based at The Sarah Duffen Centre, Belmont St Building, Cottage Grove School Campus, Chivers Close, Portsmouth, PO5 1HG.

To make a donation to the charity or to find out more, visit portsmouthdsa.org.