For many families across the Bristol area and beyond, Incredible Kids has been an invaluable support hub and source of fun. It was founded back in 2012 as a venue in Bristol where families of young people with additional needs could meet up, have fun and support each.
“Back in those early days, it was a group of families with disabled children who all came together in their local church hall to create a supportive play space,” recalls Jennie, one of those founders. “Everyone helped make Incredible Kids by bringing toys, baking cakes or making cups of tea. With the help of all of our families, we quickly grew to opening four times a week, helping hundreds of families with disabled children. Families travel from 50 miles in all directions of Bristol as there is very little support on a regular basis for families like ours.”
Jennie recalls what it was like when she discovered that her first child had autism. “We found it impossible to get any real support and became very isolated, so we made our own help by creating Incredible Kids. We now have five children but we are just as involved in supporting families and running the charity. Every week I meet families who find life very challenging and who are isolated. We help the whole family smile, have fun and make friends.”
Jennie explained that Incredible Kids is open to families that have a child with any additional needs, whether they have a diagnosis or not. She’s keen to stress that siblings are welcome too, with a real focus on supporting the whole family.
“We have a lot of children who have been referred for an autism or ADHD assessment, and that’s a really tough time in life for families who know their child needs extra support but often have to wait two years for answers. We step in and give that immediate support.
“One new family who visited for the first time last week told us, ‘I absolutely loved my first session and so did the kids, and then my husband took them the day after and loved it too – we both felt quite tearful. The relief of having others wanting to support us and share the load. I think sometimes we don’t realise how heavy it is until someone shares a bit of the weight with you. Thank you so so much for setting this up!’
“We want other families to know the relief of finding Incredible Kids and all the support that brings.”
Pay a visit to one of the sessions and you’ll find that there’s something for everyone, from a table with slime making equipment or some other messy play somewhere, to a zip wire, adventure playground, giant sand pit, scooter track, football, swings, a sensory room, people playing a card game and sometimes the ever-popular water games.
“We have a Summer party and a Christmas party which our families love,” added Jennie. “We also have play-workers to help everyone have fun and ensure those all-important smiles. The most important aspect is that it’s a place where everyone understands each other and that is very hard to find when you have a child with a disability. You can watch a video about our sessions here https://incrediblekids.org.uk/getsupport/our-sessions/“
Prior to COVID, the Incredible Kids sessions were held indoors in Kingswood. However, the sessions now take place mainly outdoors at The Vench in Lockleaze, with two sessions on Fridays after school and four sessions on a Saturday.
“Most of our sessions are for all ages, alongside a teenage session on Friday evening. We only ask £3 per family for each session so that no family is excluded on the basis of cost. Sessions need to be booked in advance on our website after signing up for membership on our website.” The service is open to any child or young person with additional needs from age 0 up to 25. Families can self-refer or be referred by a professional.
“It costs about £100,000 a year to run Incredible Kids. We rely heavily on grants and funding bodies, and it’s been a tough year because of COVID. We do have a way for people to donate and even a small, one off amount is helpful as the service makes such a big difference to our families.”
Find out more about Incredible Kids here.