Special Needs & Disability

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John Lyon’s Charity is committed to providing opportunities for young people who have a special need or disability. We have funded a wide variety of activities that give disabled children the opportunity to try new skills, have greater social interaction and build up their confidence.

Children with special needs and disabilities often struggle to cope in a mainstream environment and the benefits of stimulation outside the classroom are immense.

Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre

Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre

The Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre offers unique learning activities for young people with special needs or disabilities

Situated in an oasis of green on the edge of Wormwood Scrubs in Hammersmith & Fulham, the Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre was founded in 1989 to provide riding lessons, equine assisted therapy and horse-care lessons for young people.

The Centre serves a diverse community from a range of social, economic and ethnic backgrounds, including people with disabilities. By caring for animals, the children learn how to work and integrate with each other in a safe, structured environment. The Centre has grown from three ponies and a muddy field to 18 ponies and a full indoor-school facility (courtesy of the BBC’s Challenge Anneka television series who erected the indoor school from scratch in 72 hours!)

The ethos of the Centre demonstrates a high level of commitment to the therapeutic value of riding and being around horses and provides a valuable resource for people who may not otherwise have access to such opportunities. There is a year-round schedule of therapeutic activities and community involvement.

The Centre offers children with special needs exciting and fun-filled activities of a kind which are normally denied to low-income families. It is also popular with children who do not wish to ride, but are keen to ‘help out around the place’. Young people are encouraged to work towards a variety of tests set by the Association of British Riding Schools and the Riding for the Disabled Association. The Centre also runs Equine Studies courses and students can work towards NVQs and other qualifications.

Support from John Lyon’s Charity since 1995 amounts to £172,000. Grants have enabled the Centre to remain open, keep the horses fed and shod and continue to provide opportunities for children and young people.

Bag Books

Bag Books

Bag Books’ storytellers visit schools and deliver focused, multi-sensory teaching for pupils with severe learning difficulties

Bag Books was established in 1993 to enhance the lives of children and adults with learning disabilities, through the use of multi-sensory books. It is the only organisation in the world publishing multi-sensory stories for people with severe or profound and multiple learning disabilities. People with these disabilities will all have language delay, many will also have autism; and the majority will also have severe physical disabilities. Some will have lived with their disabilities form birth; others will have had an injury or illness such as meningitis.

Bag Books has a network of storytellers around the UK who visit schools to demonstrate how the books work and to encourage multi-sensory storytelling by school staff. As a result, the books are now used in over 96% of all the special schools catering for pupils with severe learning disabilities in the UK. 86% of teachers in those schools say they used multi-sensory books once a week during their classes.

John Lyon’s Charity has been supporting Bag Books since 2008 with grants totalling £75,000. The current grant has helped Bag Books visit 17 special schools over the past three years. 609 children with severe learning disabilities were involved in the storytelling sessions at those schools.

For more information on the work of Bag Books please see the Charity’s 2014 Annual Report


Calvert Trust

Calvert Trust

The Calvert Trust offers a range of outdoor activities for young people with special needs and disabilities

The Calvert Trust enables young people with physical, learning, behavioural and sensory disabilities to experience exciting, challenging and enjoyable outdoor activities. It runs fully accessible centres in Keswick, Kielder and Exmoor National Park. Many families who visit are close to crisis point and the holidays offer the opportunity to rehabilitate, gain independence and boost self-esteem. Activities are wide ranging and include sailing, cycling, horse riding, orienteering, paragliding and windsurfing.

John Lyon’s Charity supports the London Getaway Project at Calvert Trust in Exmoor, enabling families from the Charity’s beneficial area to visit the centre. Over half of those who take up Calvert opportunities are between 14 and 25 years old. The holidays offer the opportunity to rehabilitate, gain independence and boost self-esteem, all of which can be translated into everyday life.


Caxton Youth Organisation

Caxton Youth Organisation

Caxton Youth provide dedicated youth services for young people with disabilities

Caxton Youth Organisation is the only youth club for young people with disabilities in Westminster. Founded in 1948, they provide accessible activities and outings for young people aged 11-25. They hold regular sessions from their base in Pimlico as well as residential trips to their base at Midge Island in Surrey and their accessible narrow boat moored on the River Wey.

Over 100 members regularly participate in activities including sessions on managing money, volunteering, interpersonal skills as well as social and recreational activities.

Since 1993, John Lyon’s Charity has awarded Caxton Youth Project grants totalling £108,600.