All about Samantha by Sandra Samways

Written by Guest Writer

October 28, 2020

I feel like the luckiest person alive to have such a wonderful family that includes Samantha, and as its Down’s syndrome awareness month I decided to share some of our experiences with you all. Enjoy!

First a little bac ground information about our family; Samantha is the youngest of four children. She has a brother Sean, who has two young boys Bailey and Miller and a partner Becca. Two sisters, the eldest is Stephanie who lives with her partner Alex and they have young son Olly. They also have another baby due early 2021. Then there is Skye who still lives at home with us who recently graduated from University, and of course us parents: dad Scott and mum Sandra. We are also very fortunate to have a Nanna, Granddad and Nannie who all live within five minutes of our house. So that is the immediate family who are a very big part of Samantha’s life. In her words ‘family is everything’

Samantha is now 16 and attends a Post 16Unit, at Beaucroft Foundation School, which is one of the charitable causes ‘Shades of Different’ supports. Prior to attending Beaucroft, Samantha was in mainstream school from the age of four. I remember the day she started school: such a little girl with a heap of cuddles and hugs to give out to everyone whether they wanted one or not. I am super proud of her, so let me tell you a little more about her and some of her achievements.

At Samantha’s first school she learnt to look up at people speaking to her and not at the floor, to interact with her class friends, she befriended a young boy who wouldn’t speak to anyone and started chatting to Samantha – they are still friends today. She was also identified as someone who could teach others how to use their knife and fork properly at the school dining table. (Used as an example, I never thought I would hear that!). Samantha always took part in the Church services at school, and at the Christingle service one year she led the entire school into church carrying an orange with a candle in it, yes a real flame wow, very brave of the school – however the headteacher was very, very close behind her ha-ha. Sports days were fun and her TA was kept very busy, but she was one of the team and all her class mates included her, as did the whole school. Don’t get me wrong there were some interesting times as well, hiding under the desks knowing the teachers could not get her out, not wanting to have her school photo taken – the result was mum and Samantha sitting on a tree branch, best school photo ever. On one occasion Samantha was asked to give feedback to a pupil about her painting, so being honest she said ‘it’s not very good’. Not sure this went to plan for the teacher and the little girl was a bit upset, Ops. Because of Samantha’s additional needs a small group was formed in the school and they called themselves the Penguin Club, Samantha and three other boys were part of the group. They did things like baking, reading, painting and going out of school on trips to the recycling unit, Library, Post Office and the Park. They all loved going to the shops, as it usually included an ice cream. What a fantastic start for Samantha’s education St John’s C&E First School in Wimborne, it was an awesome time!

Samantha then transitioned to Allenbourne Middle School. The schools worked very closely together and this worked in Samantha’s favour. It was a smooth transition and she thrived at this school. Samantha attended most lessons. The few that we decided were above her capability were changed to Speech and Language and personal independence lessons. Again these lessons were with a small group of children and they all supported each other, but also had so much fun.  At Allenbourne, Samantha learned that sometimes changes were necessary, however this didn’t mean she was always compliant. We learnt that if we were given the time to suggest things to Samantha in advance, things went a lot smoother for the school, if not it was usually a difficult day ahead. So preparation for Samantha was paramount to a successful day for everyone involved. Samantha did have a tendency to run off – ‘A Runner’ as we called her. This leads me to a story about one such episode. One day, Samantha decided to leave the school grounds, she then went to use a different rest room than the one she should have and this one had a door leading to the outside of the school. So off she went, she walked along a river path to a shop. We did find her safe and well due to a past school pupil who recognised Samantha. To be honest, when you have a child like Samantha most people soon get to know who she is….., we did get to the bottom of why she decided to go on a jolly; this was after lots of conversations between the school, Samantha and ourselves. It turns out that on that particular morning the assembly topic was that the pupils were told not to leave the school grounds once their parents had dropped them off and not to go to Budgens shop. So what learning did Samantha take from this assembly: go to Budgens. So once again a lesson for everyone, think about the message you are giving Samantha and most importantly know where she is at all times. All in all, this was a very successful school for Samantha. She took part in Table Top Cricket competitions, Boccia tournaments, swimming galas, after school clubs: Dance and Boccia. She made lovely friends, some of which still keep in touch, but all too soon it was time to move to the Upper School.

It was at the Upper School that the gap between Samantha and her peers was becoming more and more evident. The amount of lessons that were suitable for Samantha to access had shrunk; she became disruptive in the class and had to be taken to a quiet area. She refused to go into lessons and enjoyed the SENCO office more. However, there was a huge positive for the school; Samantha took part in the school production of ‘Grease’ the musical. She played a Rydell High Junior dancer. The rehearsals were a trial sometimes; refusing to attend was a regular occurrence. The dance teacher had previously taught Samantha in another school, so was adept at supporting her needs and as such she performed in two day time shows and four evening performances. I was the lucky one, that got to sit through four performances, and pay for four roses to go back stage – but let me tell you it was so worth it. I remember Samantha telling me that at one rehearsal, the dress rehearsal, some of the boys requested her to do their make-up, as she did it so well. How proud I was to hear this and that the boys accepted her so naturally.

But, in the February after she had started in the previous September, Samantha came out of school and said ‘mum I cannot do this anymore, can you please find me a new school?’ – the academic gap was just too big and Samantha was becoming more and more upset and frustrated. So that’s what I did, I found her a new school and it was the best decision I ever made. Beaucroft Foundation School was and still is amazing. How very grown up of Samantha to identify that the school was not the right place for her and she was not happy, very intuitive. However, since attending Beaucroft Foundation School Samantha has grown in confidence, she is happier and growing more independent, but at her level. She also has a lovely group of friends around her and the support she needs to reach her full potential. Samantha has been out on the school bus and public transport, shopping, going to the library, Coffee shops, public swimming baths and in school participates in baking, swimming in the school pool, taking part in Beaucroft’s got talent, and even attended the school youth club which included Christmas dinner at a local pub. She has achieved exam certificates, been awarded a cup for Performing arts for 2019, so many opportunities! As a result of one of the opportunities, a photo shoot with a local photographer; Samantha is now on the books of a Modelling agency in London called Zebedee and she has had a paid job in London. What an experience for us both!

So to finish off or I could go on and on forever, I would like to tell you about some opportunities and achievements Samantha has had outside of school settings. Samantha has attended a dance class called ‘Elite Academy of Dance’ since she was four years old. Kelly, her dance teacher set up a class specifically for Children with Down’s syndrome. Kelly took extra training and has encouraged Samantha to dance for 12 years now. I have lost count of the awards Samantha has achieved, she takes dance exams just like everyone else and performs in the annual dance shows. This is one of the best examples of inclusion I have seen and cannot thank Kelly enough, or indeed the children and families that are part of this Dance group family. Samantha has also been fortunate enough to attend Gymnastics and trampoline classes, and again she has achieved awards and certificates along the way, with Bronze, Silver and Gold medals gained in competitions. Since Samantha was approximately  6 months old she attended swimming lessons, first with mum or dad in the pool with her, then on her own swimming unaided, and she is still going to Aqua Ducks swimming club, she has gained lots of certificates, but most of all had lots of fun and exercise thrown in. Samantha is also part of Awesome Nights youth group and Project My Time (through diverse abilities) and has been given opportunities to take part in swimming, bowling, crazy golf, walks along the beach, beach BBQ night and harbour walks to the chip shop, sea scooters, rock climbing, archery, to name but a few. With Arts and Sports, Samantha had the opportunity to participate in Go Ape and Paddle Boarding, something she has always wanted to do. Remix is another group that Samantha attends, taking part in singing, dancing and putting on shows. She was part of the video that Remix put together during lock down and used sign language to ‘The Greatest Showman’ which is simply beautiful. She even got to meet Pudsey Bear last year. Ups and Downs South West has been an enormous support from early on, being there to give help and advice, conducting training in school and to show support, Samantha took part in the video Ups and Downs put together for world down’s syndrome day 2019. I feel that by being part of these groups it gives Samantha the opportunity to have fun and try out new things, some things are great and some not so good, as she tells me ‘never doing that again’.

Like I said, I can go on and on, but that is because I am so proud of my Samantha, the way she is willing to give things a go, the new friends she has made, the confidence she is gaining in everything she does, and the wonderful young lady she has grown into. I love her to bits and always will. 


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *