“The essence of life is to serve others and do good”

These words from Aristotle frame perfectly what being a carer is all about.  This week celebrates carers across the UK, we chat to Rob who has been caring for Ainsley (31)  for seven years

Rob is with Ainsley most days, spending the remainder being cared for by his parents or in supported living accommodation.  They have been coming to The Wingate Centre for many years, which is an important part of the week for both.  Rob was recruited directly by Ainsley’s parents rather than a care agency.

Rob’s relationship with Ainsley is a special one and he is constantly on high alert: looking for negative signs and monitoring behaviour as Ainsley suffers from seizures.  It’s important that as his carer Rob can recognise the signs.  Robs loves being a carer but it’s demanding physically, mentally and emotionally.   The weekly visit to The Wingate Centre offers him some breathing space, where his responsibilities are supported by staff members.

Both Rob and Ainsley have good relationships with the staff at the centre.  It’s a friendship where staff understand Ainsley and work with Rob to create an empowering environment.  Ainsley benefits massively from his regular one 2 one care as he is more comfortable and relaxed around people he knows and trusts.  Ainsley’s behaviour can become challenging when someone new is around which is understandable.

“Routine is the linchpin to everything for Ainsley.  The pandemic shattered this routine causing him a huge amount of stress.”

The Wingate Centre was closed during the first lockdown but was able to open for the second lockdown.  During this time, visits to The Wingate Centre were the only thing Ainsley could do apart from walking.  Ainsley’s sessions in the gym were his only form of exercise.

“The Wingate Centre is a huge part of Ainsley weekly routine, which he looks forward to.  It gives him great focus and he becomes calmer when he knows he is coming to the centre.  The familiar environment and friendly faces of the staff give Ainsley a massive lift.”

The stability and familiarity of the Centre are key to Ainsley and his routine, as he thrives on the positive friendly atmosphere.  Ainsley’s weekly visits to the centre are important for his continued development, not only from a physical point of view but also in terms of his social skills.  When at The Wingate Centre Ainsley needs to interact and listen to different people.  His sessions are timed with another Wingate regular, which gives him the opportunity to build further relationships and drives social interaction.

Rob states, “The Wingate is an anchor for Ainsley – it grounds him.”

Rob has always wanted to work with young people and is currently finishing the final year of his history degree with a view taking his PGCE to then go on to become a primary school teacher. 

It takes a special kind of person to be a carer – a person who has patience, understanding and resilience.

Thank you to Rob for his honesty in this interview and for his continued commitment to Ainsley.

Published: 9th June 2021

Author: Rhiannon Cox


Volunteers don’t get paid because they are priceless, not because they are worthless.

Its Volunteers Week (1-7 June), by way of celebrating, we had a chat with one of own volunteers,  Emma.

Along with being a busy mummy of two young boys, Emma is a volunteer Sports Coach who commits one day a week working at the Centre.

No stranger to volunteering, Emma recognises the importance of volunteering both on a personal level and from a career point of view.

“I like to give something back, it’s a positive and empowering thing to do.  With my youngest now at nursery I can commit to volunteering.  I wanted to get back into a working environment, to build my confidence and be Emma again.” 

‘I have always volunteered when I can, even from a young age.  When I finished college, I went to Africa to volunteer for 4 months at a school and loved it.  Whilst I was at University, I volunteered at Age Concern visiting elderly people who were housebound – that was hugely rewarding’

Emma’s background is in education and sport so when she saw the role at The Wingate Centre it was obvious.  Living locally, her work at the centre means she can juggle the school run easily.   Emma talks fondly of the Centre and used to bring her boys here when they were younger for Mini Play sessions. 

“I look forward to coming in each week.  It’s different, each client is different with different needs.  No day is ever the same, time flies and I’m learning new things all the time.”

“I find the role really rewarding, I love seeing the clients, hearing them laugh and chatting to the carer’s/ parents.  Building a rapport is hugely important, there needs to be trust.”

We asked Emma what she would say to someone who was thinking of volunteering.

“It’s rewarding, it’s different, you meet new people, make new friends, you can make it work around your life as there is usually flexibility.  It looks great on your CV too because it says a lot about you as a person, it can help you stand out from the crowd”

Emma’s friends and family are very supportive and proud of what she does, providing a topic of conversation around any dinner table.  She can use her experiences at the Centre to talk about disability and difference to her young boys, thereby normalising diversity and inclusivity at a grass roots level.

Thank you to Emma for her candour in this interview and her commitment to volunteering.

The Wingate Special Children’s Trust are always in need of volunteers, be that to help with our fundraising events, raising awareness of the centre, help with the upkeep of the buildings & grounds or to help with some of our activity classes.

If you would like to volunteer, even if all you can offer is one day a year, please get in touch:


Published: 3rd June 2021

Author: Rhiannon Cox


Volunteering is a good thing,  in fact it is a great thing.

To celebrate ‘Volunteers Week’ we have trawled the web to find our favourite volunteer facts

  1. It is estimated that 15.2 million people in the UK volunteer at least once a month. That is a lot of people and a lot of hours.
  2. The most popular type of volunteering is fundraising and doing activities that raise money for a cause.
  3. 96% of volunteers say it is makes them happier; you could say volunteering makes you smile.
  4. Volunteering can increase your chances of employment by 27%, it will certainly get your CV to the top of the pile.
  5. Amazingly, volunteering has shown in different studies to lower levels of depression. Wow!
  6. Around 70% of employers believed that volunteering could help create higher salaries in the long run for those who do it. Volunteering only has positive impacts on your career progress
  7. Employer-supported volunteering(ESV) is where the employees of an organisation take paid time off to volunteer during work hours. So, you can work and volunteer – genius.
  8. More than two thirds of volunteers aged between 18-24 see volunteering as a positive way to increase their career prospects and help push them towards the job of their dreams.
  9. 92% of human resource executives agree that contributing to a non-profit organisation can improve an employee’s leadership skills.
  10. Volunteering can help improve your mental health by giving you feelings of gratitude for what you have in your own life. This new perspective can help you see things more clearly and feel inspired to keep doing the great work you are involved with.


Here at The Wingate Special Children’s Trust, we are always in need of volunteers. Be that to help with our fundraising events, raising awareness of the centre, help with the upkeep of the buildings & grounds or to help with some of our activity classes.

If you would like to volunteer, even if all you can offer is one day a year, please get in touch: office@thewingatecentre.co.uk

Published: 2nd June 2021

Author: Rhiannon Cox

Creativity is King.

Being creative is the ability to let your mind loose in an adventure playground of possibility.  We should all be doing it, supporting others doing it and learning from it.

Creativity has long been recognised as a form of therapy.  Helping children and adults alike.  Be it as simple as doodling to get through an anxious episode or drawing to express emotion; creativity focuses a different part of the mind helping to relax other areas.

For individuals with special educational needs or disabilities creative play or therapy both offer life enhancing benefits.

  • Develop independence, confidence, and motivation
  • Develop social skills and exploration of healthy ways of interacting with others
  • Develop and support self-expression
  • Instil positive experiences of being in a group
  • Drive individual thinking and risk taking

A dance and movement class will help to develop emotional expression and build a sense of self.  In turn this will assist integration of emotional, cognitive, physical, social, and spiritual aspects of self.

For individuals with special educational needs and disabilities it can be difficult to express feelings, creative activities can offer a new way for expression and understanding.  Their emotional needs are heard and acknowledged through physical display.  A class, in such an area, will use communication through play, voice, and body.

Creativity inspires independence and celebrates difference.   Many individuals with SEN often feel marginalised and excluded from their environment and the people in it; creative classes work to include and empower.





The Wingate Special Children’s Trust offer several creative courses designed to build confidence, enhance feelings of well-being and drive creativity whilst building posture and assisting balance.  Fun is the name of the game with each course offering the opportunity to build new relationships and make friends.

Working in conjunction with theatreBox, these courses place inclusivity and togetherness at the heart, providing a safe place in a unique environment bringing joy and happiness.

To find out more about booking a course or a one-off workshop please call on 01270 780456 or email admin@thewingatecentre.co.uk

Drama – Mondays 11.00-12.00

Dance & Movement – Tuesdays 11.00-12.00

Arts & Crafts – Tuesdays 13.30-14.30

Drama & Movement -Fridays 11.00-12.00 & 13.00-14.00

Source: Eden Academy Trust, MIND, youngminds.org

Links: https://www.theatrebox.co.uk/

Published: April 2021

Author: Rhiannon Cox 


The Einstein’s of tomorrow.

This week is Neurodiversity Celebration Week but what does Neurodiversity mean?   

Neurodiversity is a relatively new term.  In the 1990’s sociologist Judy Singer first coined the term, she wanted to move away from the medical model that conditions, such as Autism, are something that should treated or cured.  That in fact these neurological conditions should be embraced and seen as a valuable part of human diversity.

The term neurodiversity is now used to empower and to promote positive qualities of those with a neurological condition.    Neurodivergent individuals have many strengths and talents.  These include, but are not constrained to, unique insights & perspectives, an ability to think outside of the box, problem solving skills, creativity, and innovation.  These talents should be recognised, encouraged, and developed.  Neurodivergent adults have a great deal to offer society, where they can contribute both economically and socially.

We are as diverse and individual on the inside as we are on the outside. 

The above conditions are classed as neurodivergent, in the simplest form they each present variation in the human brain.   The concept has a basis in science where brain imaging studies show that there are differences between children with learning and thinking.  These differences appear in how the brain is ‘wired up’ and how individual functions facilitate learning and thinking.

The Wingate Centre celebrates the positives of difference & inclusivity, helping to build confidence, self-esteem, motivation, and resilience in those who visit.   All children and young adults with special educational needs and disabilities are welcomed with open arms.  The facilities at the Centre can accommodate even the most complex and demanding needs; be that a Rebound Therapy session, dedicated time in The Sensory Room, a Dance & Movement class, or a residential stay.

For more information or to book a session or stay please call 01270 780456 or email office@thewingatecentre.co.uk.

Sources: www.understood.org, www.autisimtoolbox.co.uk, Open Learn

Published: March 20th 2021

Author: Rhiannon Cox


Physical Activity for Every…. Body!

Disability fitness is a must for body and mind.

A truly inclusive community is one in which health promotion activities are as accessible to people with disabilities as they are to people without disabilities.  The outcome of inclusive physical communities is a society that respects and values the rights of all.  Physical activity can provide individuals with disabilities the strength and stamina required to participate in all aspects of life actively and successfully.

Life expectancy can be reduced for individuals with a disability.  However, positive societal changes over the last 20 years, greater medical understanding and a person-centred approach to care mean life expectancy is increasing alongside a rise in quality of life.

Here at The Wingate Centre, we offer a fully inclusive timetable of activities where children and young adults can experience physical exercise no matter how profound their disability may be.   Activity can take place in a group or as one-to-one in an individually tailored session.  There are no barriers to participation at the Centre, the environment is truly inclusive to all.

Gymnastics is particularly beneficial to children with disabilities as it promotes mobility, strength, and the development of spatial awareness.

Our trained sports coaches can develop bespoke programs incorporating gymnastic equipment and movement to develop and encourage fitness and mobility.

The benefits of exercise have been seen to extend from the individuals with specialist needs to their families.  Many parents fear their child may be at risk from injury, but in our controlled environment this is far from the reality.   With activities custom-made to their abilities the benefits can be noticed from the very first session.

Please contact one of our trained sports coaches on 01270 780456 or email gym@thewingatecentre.co.uk to arrange a consultation.

It is a proven truth that physical activity benefits everyone. Exercising is not only good for us but our children’s health and well-being too, playing a key role in development and learning. Thanks to physical activity, children and adolescents can improve their self-esteem, develop social relationships, and learn to challenge and overcome their limitations.  In the case of children with disabilities this is especially important, some considering it paramount to improving their quality of life.

Everybody loves a list, here is ours on the benefits of physical activity for children with disabilities.

1: Increase in physical and mental balance.

Children who play sports can let off steam and develop self-control. Sport can help children channel their energy whilst relieving stress and anxiety. With young people today under more pressure than ever, it is crucial for them to have an outlet for this stress and an opportunity to enjoy a feeling of success.

2: Promotes sociability and integration

Physical activities make children with disabilities more social as it is an “excuse” to meet new people, with or without disabilities.

3: Improves the ability to concentrate

Research shows the practice of physical activities by children with disabilities improves both their performance in school and their academic results.  Channelling physical energy increases efforts applied to other daily ‘ordinary’ physical tasks.

4: It stimulates and motivates

Perseverance, strength, and the ability to succeed are developed, which are integral parts of all sports.  Any physical activity creates motivation in both the learning and practising of the exercise.

5: Better sleep patterns

Students who exercise regularly have a better quality of sleep. They are therefore more alert at school and have higher levels of concentration.

6: It promotes teamwork

Both individually and as part of a team, physical activity requires active interaction.  For children with disabilities this provides a way of learning to work together to achieve common goals.

7: It positively affects their daily lives

Thanks to the cycle of continuous learning through exercise, children are better able to develop the ability to take the initiative and overcome their daily obstacles and fears.

Sources: CDC.gov , Chester College, Sunrisemedical.co.uk

Published:  March 3rd 2021

Author: Rhiannon Cox


The Sensory Room

A magical place that makes complete sense.

Humans have five basic senses: touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste. The sensory organs associated with each sense send information to the brain to help understand and perceive the world around us.   For children and young adults with disabilities and limited communication skills only some or part of these senses are available to them.



A sensory room is a special room designed to develop a person’s sense, usually through special lighting, sounds and objects.

This form of therapy assists in treating various disabilities, sensory disorders and conditions including autism, with proven benefits.

The idea behind sensory rooms is to provide an environment in which an individual can be exposed to various forms of stimuli, in a controlled environment, to awaken and release sensory perception.  Sensory equipment can help develop key life skills including vocalisationgross motor skills, colour recognition and developmental tracking.

Sensory rooms help individuals focus on the present moment.  They are effective in managing stress levels, negative thoughts, and extreme emotions.  Those with a history of aggression can find a sensory room extremely helpful in de-escalating this aggression.  Relaxation is a key component to any sensory room, creating a safe space, which can promote self-organisation and confidence, whilst increasing cognitive processes, to generate positive change.

The sensory room at The Wingate Centre is a therapeutic space, both stimulating and calming.  It is well equipped with a bubble tube, projector, star carpet, sound cushion, toys, books and games.  The space is, of course,  wheelchair assessable and has a hoist.

A recent addition to the room is a large fibre optic sensory raincloud which has an ever-changing spectrum of coloured lights.  It is a safe nurturing place encouraging play and self-discovery.




Please feel free to give us a call on 01270 780456 or email enquiries@thewingatecentre.co.uk where we can assist you further or to book a space.

Interesting fact:

The original name for sensory rooms was snoezelen.

Originated from a fusion of the two Dutch words:  ‘snuffelen’ which means to sniff and ‘doezelen’ which means to doze or snooze.

Soucres: livescience.com, healthline.com, Snoezelen: Another World

Published: 24th February 2021

Author: Rhiannon Cox

——————————————The Assisted Bike.

You can ride your way to a happier self.

Children and young adults with complex physical and learning disabilities can’t just jump on a bike and go for a ride.  Here at The Wingate Centre, we turn that can’t into a can.

Two specialist bikes reside here, bringing valuable exercise and joy to those that use them.  This joy cannot be underestimated, aside from the physical benefits, a ride on an assisted bike facilitates independence and a strong sense of self.

The Assisted Bike allows the body to work toward a plethora of therapy goals effectively in a short period of time.  Wheelchair users and those with limited movement can use an assisted bike.  It does what it says on the tin – it assists the user by moving for them.  The bike supports leg movement and drives momentum.

Activating the cardiovascular system: Regular exercise activates the entire cardiovascular system. This will stabilise blood pressure to improve the blood supply of cold legs and reduce oedemas. An active cardiovascular system improves fat burning, blood sugar and cholesterol regulation.

Activating the metabolism: Regular exercise activates all metabolic processes of the body. This will have a positive effect on digestion and urination.

 Maintaining/improving muscular strength: Systematic and regular concentric and excentric exercises can maintain and restore even very low muscular strength. Different biofeedback illustrations permit systematic strength training.

Mobility/muscle tone regulation: Especially patients lacking exercise can use THERA-Trainers to regulate their muscle tone with rhythmic and reciprocal movement and thus effectively prevent contractions.

Mental stability: Regular endurance training notably increases the release of the happy hormone dopamine. Together with the feeling of ‘success after exercising’, cause a positive mood and effectively prevent depressions.

At The Wingate Centre we recognise the importance of physical activity and its link to good mental health.  Our Disability Fitness, 1-2-1 Fitness, Rebound Therapy, Assisted Bike, Dance classes and All Stars Sports Clubs are hugely beneficial, having a positive effect both physically and mentally.

Published: 17th February 2021

Author: Rhiannon Cox


Rebound – Bounce Around!

Some might think Rebound Therapy is new & alternative, but it has been around for nearly half a century.

Rebound Therapy is trampolining with a difference.  It is a form of physiotherapy using a trampoline to provide therapeutic exercises to people with a wide variety of disabilities and special needs. The therapy involves using the moving bed of the trampoline to promote movement in the participant.

What is special about rebound therapy is that it uses altered gravitational effect and weightlessness to enable an individual to achieve physical exercise.  It decreases the load on the body and thus reduces the risk of injury whilst providing a feeling of freedom.

By carrying out basic, through to highly technical physiotherapy techniques on the trampoline, the therapy can provide many therapeutic and physiological benefits:

For a person who spends their time in a wheelchair it gives them freedom in the air where they are not restricted by the limitations of their body.

All the Sports Coaches here at The Wingate Centre are trained to Rebound Therapy Level 2.

If you would like to find out more information or to book a session, please call 01270 780456 or email gym@thewingatecentre.co.uk.

One of the team will be happy to talk through what is involved and its associated benefits.

Sources: www.reboundtherapy.org

Published: 10th February 2021

Author: Rhiannon Cox


Do Good Feel Good.

Youth Volunteering: It can improve mental well-being.

FACT! Volunteering boosts mental health.  A 2013 NVCO review evidenced that volunteering makes us feel good. Volunteering has a favourable effect on depression, life satisfaction and well-being.

94% of people who volunteered over a 6-month period said it improved their mood with 74% agreeing with the statement that ‘stress levels’ were noticeably reduced.

Young people can often feel isolated in a tech heavy world that sees an exponential increase in time spent in front of a screen.  Social media and the pressures associated with it can lead to increased feelings of anxiety and stress.

As a society we must work to facilitate habits and behaviours that increase feelings of well-being and build a strong sense of self.

Volunteering is one such pathway which should be considered amongst the Generation Z.  Also known as ‘Zoomers’, those born in the 1990s and 2000s making up the post millennial generation.

Mental health is a big issue for these young people with half of all mental health problems manifesting by the age of 14, increasing to 75% by the age of 24.

Heralded as a mental health boost, volunteering ought to be a serious consideration advertised to this generation.  The social interaction, team dynamics and altruism of volunteering tick many of the boxes for a more positive mental state.

Lets take a closer look.

Volunteering means working without pay.  This could be short term, long term or project specific.    It is often viewed as community service, but this isn’t the case as it could involve working for a charity or in the office at a government agency.  It is a great way to boost a CV and demonstrates to any potential employers a desire to learn and grow as an individual.  The ‘feel good’ factor doesn’t stop there.  Volunteering can be a great way to get involved in the local community and improve the lives of those around you.

Youth Volunteering.

If under the age of 18 it can be a little harder to get involved as not all opportunities will be available. Considerations when youth volunteering.

  • Children under the age of 15 can volunteer for 2 hours per day on a school day in term time increasing to 5 hours per day at a weekend or in non-term time.
  • For children over the age of 15 this increases to 8 hours per day in non-term time.
  • Volunteering must never be a reason to be absent from school and needs full parental consent.
  • Be mindful that some roles may require emotional support and training, particularly in the charity sector.

Here at The Wingate Special Children’s Trust, we are always in need of volunteers.  To help with our fundraising events, raising awareness of the centre, help with the upkeep of the buildings & grounds and to help with some of our activity classes.

If you would like to volunteer, even if all you can offer is one day a year, please get in touch:


Sources: Young Minds, Manchester Community Central, College Vine, National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

Published: 4th February 2021

Author: Rhiannon


The Mental Health Equation

This week is Children’s Mental Health Week.  A staggering 1 in 6 children and young adults have a diagnosable mental health condition. 

The theme for this year is ‘EXPRESS YOURSELF’.  It’s about finding ways for children to share feelings, thoughts or ideas through creativity, be that art, storytelling or having a bounce on a trampoline.

Children and young adults with physical or learning disabilities are more likely to experience mental health problems.  Between 25 – 40% experience challenges around emotional well-being.   A major barrier to diagnosing a mental health problem with someone with special educational needs (SEN) is that symptoms displayed might be attributed to behaviour related to their disability rather than their mental health.

SEN children and young adults are particularly vulnerable to mental health issues.  Factors such as deprivation, social exclusion, loneliness and negative attitudes of people towards those with learning disabilities can affect well-being.

You do not need to be doctor to know that physical activity is an essential part of living a healthy lifestyle. It promotes good physical health and contributes to people’s emotional and social wellbeing.

At The Wingate Centre we recognise the importance of physical activity and its link to good mental health.  Our Disability Fitness, 1-2-1 Fitness, Rebound Therapy and Dance classes are hugely beneficial, having a positive effect both physically and mentally.




The equation is simple: increased physical activity leads to improved fitness and a reduction in health issues.  Stress and anxiety levels decrease when happiness and self-esteem increase.   When social skills are developed, feelings of isolation are reduced.

We appreciate you can’t always get out and about, here are our top 5 tips on getting more physical at home with the family:

1: Make it fun

Fun is a great motivator.  By making an activity fun leads to wanting to do it again, whilst creating lasting memories along the way

2: Use what you have got around you.

It’s incredible how quickly a living room floor can turn into an obstacle course.

3: Know your audience

Into superheroes?   Then do some role play and give each other super hero names.

4: Decide the activity together, let them choose

Choice makes an individual feel valued, motivated, and empowered.

5: Get all the family involved…… even the cat, maybe?

This will form valuable connections within the family unit no matter how big or small your family is.

Sources: MENCAP, Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, Sport England, BBC

Published: 1st February 2021

Author: Rhiannon Cox 


Top tips for planning a residential break

A residential break can be a truly rewarding and inspiring experience for children with disabilities or special needs. At the Wingate Centre we offer inclusive residential short breaks to help special children push their boundaries, gain life skills and learn all about themselves away from home. We welcome groups from special schools, mainstream schools and charities to experience the holiday of a lifetime.

Organising a residential break can be a daunting task, so here are our top tips for planning a successful stay at The Wingate Centre.

  1. Set your objectives

Think about what you want to do or achieve during your stay. Would your group benefit from organised workshops, time in the gym or more outdoor-based activities? Would you prefer a relaxed or structured approach? Are days out on your agenda?

We have a range of indoor and outdoor activities available but some require pre-booking so you’ll need to let us know what you’d like to do in advance. We can offer gym taster sessions, creative craft workshops and participation in awards programmes such as the AQA Unit Awards that encourage independence and life skills. There are plenty of local attractions to visit in close proximity to the Centre, from ice-cream farms and animal adventures to museums and sporting venues. If you’re unsure what you’d like to achieve from your stay, give the team a call and we’ll help tailor a programme to meet your needs.

  1. Special needs and disabilities

It’s important for us to understand the age range and capabilities of your group so that we can place you in the right area of the building and plan age and ability appropriate activities. Our bedrooms and bathrooms are equipped with hoists, support rails, stair gates, low-level beds and toilet and shower chairs. A list of specialist equipment can be found here. By understanding the needs of every individual in your group, we can help make your stay as enjoyable as possible.

  1. Consider safety

Are any of your group likely to need additional monitoring or supervision? We have two rooms that form a secure suite, ideal for the close supervision of children in need of constant care. We can also provide additional supervision in outdoor areas should your group require it.

  1. Dietary requirements

All of our food is freshly prepared on site each day and our experienced and helpful catering team produce delicious meals that cater for all dietary requirements, from vegetarian to gluten/lactose free and halal. Blended and liquidised food is available on request at every mealtime. We’ll ask you for a list of dietary requirements when you book.

  1. Challenging behaviours

We understand there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to planning a residential short break. Every child is unique and we’ll work with you to make sure every child gets maximum benefit from their stay. Quieter periods are often more beneficial for children with challenging behaviours, so please contact us to discuss your group’s needs.

If you’ve not organised a residential break before, we hope these tips are useful.

Taster ‘away days’ are an ideal way to sample life at The Wingate Centre. They include a gym session, use of the play area and a picnic or buffet lunch. Please contact the team if you’d like to arrange a visit or have any questions arising from this blog – we’ll be delighted to assist!