I have fond memories from my childhood of my time as a Brownie and Girl Guide...
Drinking my first cup of tea at Brownie camp, first time away from my mum and dad (a whole 3 miles down the road), being a sixer, the honour of carrying the flag for our unit at church parade, doing a reading in church, trips to the pantomime, indoor marshmallow toasting with candles (probably not allowed these days), bonfires, playing 'murder in the dark' - always a favourite as we could do lots of screaming when we 'died' - as well as other games and making new friends I didn't go to school with. I'm glad they've updated the uniform now though, the brown culottes were particularly awful!
I remember when Rainbows was introduced - a section of the girl guiding movement for younger girls aged 5-7. As Ella reached school age, I put her name down for our local Rainbow group. I was keen for her to experience being a part of the guiding community and to have an extra opportunity to be included, to learn, to grow and to have lots of fun in the process.
I was very open with them on her application what she could do and what she would need help with but did worry that they may not be able to accommodate her needs. I even offered to get involved as a leader if necessary so that they would have additional adult support if that was what was needed.
After nearly a year on the waiting list I got a call to say she could start in April after the Easter break. I had a long discussion with the leader who called me and explained about Ella using makaton, that she was still not toilet trained and that she needed close supervision.
After bombarding them with all that information, we went along to her first session at Rainbows. I took her in, offered to stay and was told as long as I'd left a contact number I could go but if I wanted to stay then that was fine too. And with that, the Rainbows had now formed two lines and Ella happily sailed passed me, following her peers with a wave saying;
'goodbye mummy, see you later'
So, decision made for me, I left her to it. And that's as hard as sending her to Rainbows has been, unlike a lot of other activities we have signed her up for or tried to include her in before. No EHCP's to sort, no IEP, meetings to be had, no funding or 1:1 support to be found. No conditions on how and when she can take part. The onus on inclusion and giving Ella the supervision she needs has been taken on 100% by the Rainbows team and not passed back to me as is so often the case.
The leaders ensure she is safe and supervised and able to get involved in whatever activities they are doing. The guiding movement has a commitment to be accessible to all and it's been fantastic to see that ethos of inclusion working well in practice. It proves to me that inclusion can happen and can work as so often we come up against barriers and challenges to allow Ella to take part and be included with her peers.
Every week they do a craft activity and we all know how much Ella loves her art and crafts. Every Tuesday she comes home proudly clutching a project related to whatever topic they are doing covered in wet glue/sequins/feathers/wet paint/drawings. One week we even got her first ever independent, legible attempt at her name:
This week at the annual Rainbow, Brownie and Guide 'Bonween' party, Ella along with several other little girls made her Rainbow Promise. We have been practising the promise over the last few weeks and have learnt the Makaton version too to help Ella commit it to memory better. She was a little bit overwhelmed by all the people and what was expected of her on the night but she did a fab job considering and I am super proud!
Here is the picture of her with her trefoil badge getting a welcome handshake:
I was very impressed to find the Makaton version of all the guiding promises available on their website (another sign of their commitment to inclusion and being accessible to all):
I am sure Ella will continue to enjoy being a Rainbow and in a couple of years she will hopefully move up and become a Brownie.
I've kept my Brownie sash all these years, covered in the badges I earned (including m Highway badge), which six I belonged to (I was an Imp), my pack name, promise badges and my shiny silver trefoil badge. Once Ella graduates to Brownies I'll be able to show her my badges and I look forward to helping her to earn some of her own too.
Our little Rainbow xx