'They bring so much joy' Charity inspires children with learning disabilities to follow their dreams

By ITV Wales Journalist Gwennan Campbell

In the last of our series celebrating ‘Welsh Charities Week’ we’ve been litter picking with ‘Follow Your dreams’, a national charity inspiring children and young people with learning disabilities to develop their skills through creative events and community workshops.

Diane Blackmore is the woman behind the charity and has been inspiring children and young people with learning disabilities to follow their own dreams for over 10 years.

Diane Blackmore, CEO

"Nothing is really impossible for us. We find a way to make sure that we can focus on abilities rather than disabilities and achieve together", she said.

"Some are life limiting, some have terminal illnesses, but we are here to support them throughout life and beyond.

"That's what it's all about - creating these little butterflies that can either go off and enjoy the world or stay with us for life."

Sherylee and mum, Sue

Sherylee Beach has Chromosome 18, a rare chromosomal disorder that affects the muscles and the brain.

During the pandemic, her condition has deteriorated. Sherylee and her mum, Sue, had to move out of their family home into an adapted flat.

"We're managing", Sue said.

"Follow Your Dreams has helped tremendously. They are our family now."

Sue believes there's a lack of support out there for people with learning disabilities and without Follow Your Dreams, Sherylee "would've had nothing".

She said: "There's very little support out there for people with learning difficulties.

"From the time we went into the first lockdown and when we were put in touch with Follow Your Dreams, we had no support. Nobody got in touch with us to see how we were doing, nobody got in touch with us to see how Sher was doing."

She described the charity as a "lifesaver".

The students have been learning Makaton during the pandemic

Follow Your Dreams aims to support parents and carers too, encouraging them to get involved in the activities.

During lockdown, the students have been learning Makaton, a language programme using symbols, signs and speech to communicate.

Pauline James and daughter Niamh

Pauline James' daughter Niamh has Down's Syndrome. She praised the close community and explained how speaking to other parents in her situation has improved her mental wellbeing.

"They are there for you", she said.

"You can pick the phone up and talk to anybody, and we all help each other. They've been great, just for my mental wellbeing."

Working for the charity is more than just a job for Diane

For Diane, working for the charity is more than just a job.

"It means the world to me", she said.

"I can't imagine my life without supporting these young people. They bring so much happiness and joy. It's the best job in the world.

"The most important thing is to believe in your child. People around them instantly have that negativity and they think they can't go out and achieve. They can.

"We're all unique, we're all different. We all have different ways in life. But given the right support, any of us can go out and achieve our dreams, and they do."