Jill Boardman, CEO, Twinkle House
World Autism Awareness Week takes place between 26 March - 2 April 2018 and is the perfect opportunity to raise awareness, and funds, of this lifelong, developmental disability. Each person is different, but autism can affect how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them and it can impact the whole family. At Face for Business we work with, and support, Twinkle House, a charity that offers much needed guidance and support across the region and are delighted to let you know a little more about them.
Please download the Twinkle House information pack here.
We interviewed Twinkle House CEO, Jill Boardman, about the centre...
Twinkle House looks like a fantastic organisation; can you tell us a bit more about what you do and whom you help?
We provided support and facilities for 3527 children and young people (CYP) in the last financial year. Each CYP will access the service between 6-18 times. In addition, we provide emotional support and advice and signposting for parents and carers. Our aim is to improve children’s health and well-being through increasing their resilience to help them achieve their personal potential. We do this by providing a range of free and low-cost support services for children with Disabilities or Additional Needs, many who have Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC), ADHD more often both conditions. Many of these children experience high anxiety, stress and emotional difficulties and struggle to understand emotions and feelings.
We provide a 1-1 support service with a Nurse/Social Worker who offers emotional and practical support to children and young people 0-19 and their carers. Together they develop strategies that are manageable and meaningful to them to help them cope with stress, anxiety, social skills, communication and more, this service also teaches relaxation techniques to each CYP to help them self-soothe which is vital for them to manage their emotions themselves.
Number of children and young people directly supported by Twinkle House in the last year (April 2017 – end March 2018) 3527 children and young people:
- 213 in 1-1 support
- 158 families in sleep support
- 174 with Therapeutic dance and movement
- 118 with Yoga and Mindfulness520 family time children’s sessions
- 184 family time Hydrotherapy sessions
- 2160 attending our facilities outside of support sessions
We notice you offer sleep counselling, how popular is this service and why is it important for your service users?
We do indeed have a sleep support service and this provides strategies for families of children with disabilities or additional needs. This support is very well received by families, when a child is not sleeping it can impact on the whole family and often lead to other problems such as not focusing at school. Sleep deprivation can mean parents have to take time off work and can also lead to arguments, break ups and inevitably an increased need to see GPs and access hospitals.
We also provide dance, yoga and mindfulness classes for children and young people with ASC. We keep these classes small so are typically around 4-6 people per class, as many of the children are unable to cope in large groups. Children learn to self-regulate their emotions, learn relaxation techniques through medium of dance and yoga; this is so beneficial for any child. On top of this, we provide very low-cost sessions in our sensory rooms and hydrotherapy pool six days a week for families, giving them access to activities all year round. This is our charitable side.
You have a number of sensory rooms and a pool at Twinkle House, how do these help the children and young people you work with?
We are also evolving as a Social Enterprise because we need to generate funds to help sustain our charitable work. Therefore, this side of the business is providing facilities to the whole community, which they can pay for to use (adults or children, individuals or groups) they include three sensory rooms, a hydrotherapy pool and a dance studio (when not in use for our charitable work). Having these facilities also means that families can continue enjoying access to relaxing sensory rooms or hydrotherapy sessions even after support ends. They can also refer back into the service as new difficulties arise.
How are families referred to Twinkle House?
Families are referred to Twinkle House through a variety of means, mainly from families direct as well as via health, social care and education departments and professionals. An electronic referral form can be found on our website that people can complete, print and post - please note it does not save text.
How can the local community get involved with your work and fundraising?
As a very small team concentrating on service delivery and without any fundraising staff, we have very little opportunity to run events or offer additional activities. As a result, we try to encourage individuals, groups and particularly businesses in our local community to choose us as their charity of the year and fundraise for us! This is the perfect way for businesses to demonstrate their social responsibility policy and efforts and is a great way for colleagues to enjoy team–building exercises. We will be starting a ‘Friends of Twinkle House’ group in the near future and are currently looking for people to join this group and help raise funds for us. Anyone interested can email Jill on
Face for Business has been supporting Twinkle House since 2015 and has held various fundraising activities including cake sales as well as hosting a charity evening at The Blue Mallard - read about the successful event here.
Maurice Cannon (The Drifters), Goldie and Jill Boardman at FFB's fundraiser
How will you be marking National Autism Week at Twinkle Week?
Again, it’s difficult to do more than we can at the moment but we will certainly add to social media, perhaps highlighting our support for families who have a child/young person with Autism. See also the special project we're launching for World Autism Week...
HOT OFF THE PRESS! World Autism Week!
We will be launching a pilot project providing therapeutic dance, yoga and mindfulness for families of children with Autism, previously only the child would attend. Families have told us they need this also, so in response to their demand we will be fulfilling this need offering relaxation techniques for the whole family in order that they can practice together and support each other more effectively. If you're interested in finding out more about this project, please visit the Twinkle House website.
What would you say makes Twinkle House so special?
Oh, without a doubt it is definitely the team. They are all fantastic, enthusiastic and passionate about making a real difference and always go above and beyond what is expected of them. They ensure families feel welcomed, safe, supported and understood. They also have magical surroundings to work in and they all genuinely love their jobs, me included!
What plans do you have for Twinkle House moving forwards?
First of all, we only have secured funds until end of July 2018 so this means that all my focus is on seeking funding, writing funding bids and very little else until our future is secured at least for the next 1-3 years. We will however be celebrating our 15th Anniversary year, and hope to have an Open Day on Friday 4th May with cake and fun. Everyone will be welcome and once the final information has been collated, it will be on the Twinkle House website, so do stop by and look. Ormskirk and Rainford Vocal Academy is in the process of writing a charity song for our birthday celebrations - I've heard the first version of it, and it's amazing! Follow the vocal academy here to follow their progress with the single, which they hope to release for 4th May.
If you could see any changes in the service provision for families in the UK, what would it be?
A Twinkle House in every town of course! Families need somewhere they can go if they have difficulties with their children; they need practical help rather than a leaflet or a chat over a desk. They need a place that is safe and supportive of their varied and changing needs and somewhere that can help to prevent minor difficulties worsen leading to needing NHS / Social Care intervention, usually by this time they are at crisis level and the damage is done.
The team here at Face for Business would be delighted if you could help to raise awareness of the Twinkle House Wellness and Sensory Centre. Have a look on their website below and get involved, as there are a number of ways you can do so!
Questions by Natalie Trice.
Answers form Jill Boardman, CEO, Twinkle House.