Interview - Elsie Normington

Author of The Silent Doorbell, an account of raising a child with a learning disability. Ms Normington also founded SNAP, a play centre for disabled children.

Why are you looking to set up a charity to build a specialist play centre for disabled children in the Highlands?

My adult son has significant learning disabilities and when he was a child in 1996 I set up a play service, SNAP, for children with serious learning and physical disabilities. It is still running today, but there is a need for a bigger play centre with more projects. I want us to have our own centre in the heart of the community in Inverness, so that children with disabilities have got a safe place to play. It will also provide support for parents.

What will the play centre look like?

It will be for children and teenagers with learning and physical disabilities. Having said that, it won't be exclusively for them because we want to see some inclusion in the community. I hope it will be able to support more than 100 families on a regular basis.

It will feature a big, bright, airy indoor area to play. It will have sensory, music and art rooms, as well as a kitchen for the children to do baking. It will also have a big outdoor area that will allow them to play outside in a safe and protected environment.

What else does your project include?

I've got quite a big vision for this.

The first part is the centre itself. I also want the children to have overnight care to give parents a break. Then I would like to have a community coffee shop which would be a social enterprise.

The main part of my dream is to have some flats built, so that young people can get ready to fly the nest and live in supported accommodation. I hope to open the play centre in the next couple of years and the remaining parts of the project in five years.

What are you trying to say through your new book, The Silent Doorbell, the proceeds of which will go towards building the play centre?

I'm telling my personal story, which is a story of tragedy to triumph. I had two children and I didn't expect disability to come into my family. I talk about the emotional journey through that. I want the book to encourage parents to realise they can come through this and accept their child for who they are. But I also hope it will give insight to people who are working in education, health, and social care.

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