Opportunity Groups for Children with Special Needs

Written by MiriamSpall on Monday, April 6, 2015 - 19:39

There are numerous groups that provide support for children with certain special needs but few that are able to welcome  children with any kind of special needs (diagnosed or not) at the same time. Opportunity Groups in Suffolk do not only offer great support for the children but they also provide what I would describe outstanding support for the parents! These groups are registered charities funded partly by Suffolk County council and by other charities such as Children in Need. There are four independent ran groups in Suffolk, The Ipswich, Felixstowe, Stowmarket and Eye Opportunity Groups. Most people are referred by their health visitor but you can self- refer as well.

"Matilda has an undiagnosed complexed disabilty which has left her devlopmentally delayed and unable to meet milestones e.g walking & talking. We found it difficult at first to come to terms with her condition and felt very isolated as didn’t belong to any particular group, we found groups for specific conditions but none for pre-school children suitable for our Matilda. Finally we were recommended Ipswich Opportunity Group, finally we “belonged” we were able to mix with other families in our situation and really feel part of a group"

Ipswich Opportunity Group

Ipswich Opportunity Group provides specialist support for parents / carers and families with children with additional needs aged 0 - 5 years. A range of play activities are provided with consideration to children's individual abilities, this includes floor and table activities, craft, textures and sensory activities. There are also group activities for snack and music time.

  • Address: Salavation Army Hall, 558 Woodbridge Road, Ipswich, IP4 4PH
  • Contact Name:  Sheryl
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  • Telephone number: 07746 580132.
  • E-mail address: opportunitygp@btinternet.com
  • Number of children: The maximum group size could be up to 12 children
  • Sessions: Monday 10-11.30am & 1-3pm and Fridays 10.30-12.00m
  • Cost: £3.00/per session
  • Other: The Ipswich Opportunity group can help with transport if parents don't drive by paying for a taxi.  Staff are trained to assist in the following: Makaton, PECS, Managing challenging behaviour, Sensory training, Staff are also trained in autism awareness and portage support

"Its an amazing group and has helped me come to terms with the fact he is delayed and different, I’ve got speaking to a few mums in the same boat which helps tons! The ladies that run the group are brilliant and very good with Theo and also take into consideration his dairy intolerances when doing snack which no other group has done before! Theo loves attending this group also as its not too crowded like other groups and there are different toys out each week"

The Felixstowe Opportunity Group:

FOG offers opportunities for all the family. For children with additional needs, it offers a place to play that is safe and supportive as well as stimulating. For Siblings, they are encouraged to participate in play or quiet time whilst having their needs acknowledged. For carers and family members, FOG offers a supportive, friendly environment as well as an opportunity to discuss any questions they may have regarding government entitlements.

  • Address: Felixstowe Academy – Maidstone Campus,  Maidstone road, Felixstowe, IP11 9EF
  • Contact Name: Lorraine Waite
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  • E-mail: oppgroup@fog99.plus.com.
  • Telephone number: 01394 286399
  • Sessions:Tuesday am & Thursday pm but also open during school holidays on a Wednesday am for school aged children.
  • Other: Formally known as St Mary’s Opportunity Group, the group is managed by a voluntary management committee, made up of parents of children attending the group and members of the local community. A maximum of 24 children may attend the group at any one time. The group is open for various sessions throughout the week and children share access to a secure enclosed outdoor play area.

The Eye Opportunity Group

Eye Opportunity Group aims to support families who have children aged 0-5 with disabilities or learning difficulties. We run play sessions for the children, catering for their individual needs. We aim to stimulate the children's development through enjoyable and safe play activities. We have a high staff ratio so that the children get one-to-one attention and are able to benefit from specialised toys and play equipment. We aim to offer multi-faceted support and guidance to parents and carers, so that they may also be treated equally and be accepted by society.

The Eye Opportunity Group was the first Opportunity Group in Suffolk and was founded in 1984 by June Winter who was working as a Play Therapist at Ipswich Hospital and could see that families with young children with disabilities needed support.   
People can self-refer.  We are a Registered Charity and have to fundraise to keep running.  We currently receive small grants from Norfolk County Council, Suffolk County Council and BBC Children in Need.We help with transport to the group if we can, but we are currently short of volunteer drivers, so sometimes local Children's Centres will provide transport  if parents do not drive.
  • Contact Name: Nicki Trevitt
  • Telephone number: 01379 870975
  • E-mail address: eyeopportunitygroup@btconnect.com
  • Sessions: Structured play sessions for children aged up to 5 years including babies and toddlers. Sessions  run on Monday and Wednesday at 9.30am  –  11.45am and 12.30pm  –  2.45 pm and Thursday, 12.30pm – 2.45pm.  On Thursday morning 9.30am – 11.30am there is a group for children (from age 2½) to attend without their parents in preparation for moving on to nursery and school.
  • Cost: Very low fees (£3.00 per family per session). Pre-school brothers and sisters are welcome.
  • Other: We run with the assistance of dedicated Volunteers, as both as Play workers and to provide Transport. We are run by a Management Committee made up of mostly parent members as well as local residents with relevant experience and expertiseWe are based in a small cottage with a warm friendly atmosphere; we adhere to Health & Safety, Safeguarding Children and Equal Opportunities policies and our staff are trained in Child Care as well as First Aid, Makaton, Autism, Family Support and regularly update all relevant areas of training.

The Stowmarket Opportunity Group- CLOSED :( (Updated 14.04.18)

We help children under the age of 9 who, for whatever reason, and are in need of a little bit of extra help and understanding. This may be due to many different reasons, for example: chronic illness, disability, behavioural problems, developmental delay, family bereavement, social, emotional or communication difficulties. This list is by no means exhaustive, your family is always welcome with no need for explanations. We are also here to support carers/parents who may have illness/disabilities or problems themselves, and just need a short respite break and some understanding. It doesn't matter if your child doesn't yet have a diagnosis, our staff and families are here to give help and share experiences, offering valuable support and understanding that is so often not available at other groups.

  • Address: Chilton Fields, Chilton Way, Stowmarket. IP14 1SZ
  • Contact Name:
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  • Telephone number:  01449-770645
  • E-mail address:  info@stepping-stones-group.org.uk
  • Sessions: Tuesday 9.30 - 12.00, Friday 12.00 - 2.30
  • Cost:£3.50 per family. (Our suggested donation for the Opportunity Group is £3.50 per family. However, we realise that this may not be possible for some families. Rather than not attend we would like you to call us to discuss, as we may be able to help)Please call to book
  • Other: The children will enjoy some playtime with our highly experienced staff, staff who are very used to helping children with a variety of additional needs. We plan activities to suit various needs and are always happy to try something that your child may like if you just let us know.We have a sensory room, specialist seating and staff that are trained in Makaton and PECS. Please see our facilities page for full details of what we offer.Included in the session is snack time.

This is a time when all the children can come together to enjoy a healthy snack and drink that we have prepared for them to enjoy with their friends.There is a parents kitchen area with free tea and coffee. This is a place where you can enjoy a short break, meet other families, but still see your child happily playing and making friends. Please call us is you require any more information, and to book your place. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hAb-dyTo5o[/embed]    

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