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Going to nursery proved to be “life-changing” for her daughter, reveals disability campaigner and blogger Stacie Lewis, who has called on more nurseries to be inclusive and take children with disabilities.
Ms Lewis, who writes the blog Mama Lewis and the Amazing Adventures of the Half-Brained Baby, made a speech at the recent National Day Nurseries Association conference about the huge impact attending nursery had on her daughter May.
May, who is now six, was born with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain.
This means she has cerebral palsy and epilepsy, she cannot sit up without support and she has limited vision.
Finding childcare proved to be extremely tough for Ms Lewis, who was turned down by nurseries telling her May would go on a waiting list and then finding out later they didn’t even have a waiting list. While others told her that taking May would be unfair on the other children in the nursery.
Stacie Lewis contacted over 50 childminders and nurseries before she found Dulwich Day Nursery, part of Asquith Day Nurseries, which agreed to take her daughter May.
Andy Morris, chief executive of Asquith Day Nurseries, said taking May “was the best decision I have ever made”. He believes having children with disabilities can be beneficial for everyone. “It helps the parents, adds real value to the nurseries and it is good for the other children and for the staff. The children see that everyone in the world is unique and if children see other people with disabilities from an early age, they will accept them and not see them as having a disability,” he said.
“When we do this, it only enhances the company. It does cost extra money, and we have to train up staff, but it is definitely worth it,” he said.
In her impassioned speech to nursery owners and managers, Ms Lewis said: “I would like to think that you can incorporate one disabled child into every nursery. We managed to find an amazing nursery that took May which is so rare. Only 16 per cent of mothers who have a disabled child are able to return to work. That is a lot to do with access to childcare.
“I realise that disabled children means more investment from a nursery both in terms of time and money.
“But I want you to think about the benefits and all the things that disabled children bring to a nursery.”
When May was born, her parents were told that due to her brain damage, they should keep her in a darkened room and away from too much socialisation. But they found that socialisation at the nursery was of huge benefit to her.
The nursery staff had such perseverance and taught May how to eat, according to Ms Lewis, who said: “We were told that May would have to be tube fed for the rest of her life. Because they taught May how to eat she no longer has to be tube fed which has saved the NHS thousands of pounds.
“The manager of the nursery she attended told me they were lucky to have her. These people loved her. Parents came up to me and told me their children loved playing with her and would bring her toys. These are the basic human values which we want to instil in our young people and nurseries like this one gave them that opportunity. It is a terrible thing to be disabled child and then to be further encumbered by this exclusion.
“I really hope that you will pledge to take in a disabled child.”
To read Stacie Lewis’s blog go to http://www.mamalewis.com/