Sólás delivers practical supports across educational and social programmes, to those children and young people with additional needs and disabilities including autism; serving families in Belfast and beyond, and constantly innovating to bring a leading edge to what we do, underpinned by a passion and commitment to fairness for all.

We serve those with additional needs including mild educational needs as well as more profound disabilities.

We run an after school home work club, THE KIDS DEN for children in this local catchment area of Belfast which is in the top 10% most educationally deprived areas in Northern Ireland (NISRA, 2014). The club recruits student volunteers of Education at Queen’s University Belfast and Stranmillis College, and provides them with structured training, induction and vetting before they can work in the Kids Den and offer one on one support to the children attending. This unique approach offers invaluable support to vulnerable kids.

Children come from the surrounding local communities, including minority ethnic groups where English is not the first language, and will have an additional learning need. Typically children who attend have a reading age which is 2 years below their actual age; they come from families where there is little support for education; they lack confidence and may exhibit signs of dyslexia, attention deficient or autism. 35 children get support in the KIDS DEN each week through this programme and a recent independent evaluation conducted by an independent consultant, showed that there was a 100% reported improvement in children’s literacy age, a 95% improvement in confidence and self esteem, a 100% improvement in class engagement reported by their class teacher, and an overall improvement in the child’s ability to express themselves and communicate. 90% of those children who attended our Kids Den club were now attending school more frequently and engaging in class activity more openly.

Those children attending our club from an ethnic background where English is not the first language reported the best improvement in understanding and interpreting information as a result of the year’s intervention at our Kids Den.

Children’s expressive language improved for 80% of the children and their ability to express creatively through language was reported to be as advanced as average peers. Overall this improvement has led to the development of a better grasp of language amongst the children taking part and the building of better foundations for these children to live a more fulfilling and productive life.

Our volunteers provide a life line to children’s development. Many of the children coming to our club have strong signs of dyslexia and are still waiting on a diagnosis. We can best support these children if we can up skill our student teacher volunteers in the area of dyslexia, which requires us to bring in some specialist training in dyslexia for our volunteers.

Over the coming year we will support a further 35 children with addition needs, from this local Shaftsbury Ward of Belfast which is amongst the top 10% most educationally deprived wards in Northern Ireland and the most ethnically diverse area of Belfast. The project will benefit from the LEAP award through investing in additional resources and training for volunteers.

We do what we do because we value education and we see how it is the key to a better future for all children. We specifically support children with additional needs, as it is harder to do so; children with additional needs need more work, more support and someone to actually care about them. We care and we want to make a difference. We know that student teachers can offer alot, however we need to support them through more targeted training.