“Making a difference, one life at a time.”
The essence of life often lies in the paths less travelled, the unique routes carved by individuals who dare to be different. This very spirit is embodied by Donna and Christie from Calmer Therapy, the deserving winners of the Making a Difference Award (Team) Award.
They’ve embraced the philosophy that life doesn’t need a fixed strategy or an end game; every day brings a fresh set of possibilities and promises.
At the heart of Calmer Therapy’s ethos lies a quote: “I may have a disability, yes that’s true. But all that really means, is that I may have to take a different path than you”. It’s an affirmation that reinforces the belief of taking diverse paths to achieve set objectives.
Both Donna and Christie, being parents of children with Special Educational Needs, resonate deeply with this sentiment. They’re unwavering in their commitment to ensure that opportunities remain abundant for children with additional needs, and their families.
Calmer Therapy’s roots trace back to 2015 when Donna Swan MBE noticed a significant gap: there was a glaring lack of support for children with special needs and their families in the North East.
What began as a modest parent support group under Donna’s guidance, has now blossomed into a sanctuary for many. With a thriving centre and a member base of over 3,000, Calmer Therapy serves the North East and Scottish Borders, all thanks to a compassionate community.
The spectrum of support provided by Calmer Therapy is vast. It offers everything from work experiences at food banks to apprenticeship opportunities. Their summer provisions are all-encompassing, with activities such as making pizzas, watching movies, indoor football, and many more. While the teenagers are introduced to freedom and choices, juniors aged 8 and below also receive equal attention, fostering a sense of understanding and camaraderie among them.
Calmer Therapy doesn’t just stop at providing opportunities; they actively challenge the status quo. They’ve overturned the conventional wisdom by asking, “What do you want to do?” instead of dictating terms. This has empowered those under their care to engage in various activities ranging from water sports one day to volunteering the next.
Their collaboration with the Department of Education has broken down barriers in SEN education. Working with local schools they have pioneered a system where special needs students receive and benefit from bespoke experiences tailored to their interests.
Another notable endeavour is how they empower SEN teenagers through the formation of Young Leaders. Working with teenagers between the ages of 15-19 these young leaders are not just beneficiaries of the Calmer Therapy system; they are its architects. By offering their perspectives, experiences, and feelings, they’re making the system more inclusive for everyone.
The beauty of Calmer Therapy lies not just in the end goals but in the journey. While the path they pave might be different from mainstream routes, it’s this very divergence that creates liberating and memorable experiences.
In their relentless pursuit, Donna, Christie, and the Calmer Therapy team touch the lives of over 300 individuals weekly. Their impact is perhaps best summarised by a heartfelt testimonial: “They have completely changed my family’s life, I have seen such a difference in my son, who is autistic and has learning disability, and given him so many opportunities that he would not have been able to have.”
Calmer Therapy’s legacy is one of transformation, inclusion, and relentless passion. Donna and Christie’s victory is a testament to their tireless work and dedication. With no rigid formula, they are making a difference, one life at a time.