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Focus Surrey demonstrates the value of communicating and connecting with children through play

Focus Surrey is now hiring for its 15th term starting in September 2024. One volunteer who would recommend the experience is Michelle Lai.


As part of #nationalvolunteersweek2024 National Volunteers Week 2024, the team at Focus Surrey Saturday club for children with autism recognised the efforts of Michelle Lai, who has volunteered as a 1 to 1 play assistant for three terms, giving up her Saturdays to support the children at the club. Michelle is one of more than 420 volunteers who have supported the charity since its inception in September 2016.


A hardworking and committed volunteer, Michelle is a student at University College London who first volunteered in the Autumn term 2021. Michelle travels to Morden from North West London to support the children at the club. Michelle enjoyed the experience in 2021 and then returned in Autumn 2023 and again for her 3rd term in Spring 2024.


"Initially, I decided to volunteer since I was interested in educational psychology and wanted volunteer experience with SEN children," Michelle said.


“I've continued to volunteer because the team are really supportive and I see that the children, the parents and the volunteers get a lot of positive experiences and a sense of community out of it!"


"It's also important to me as someone who studies special and inclusive education as an academic subject to interact with SEN children in real life, and I've really seen the value of communicating and connecting with children through play from volunteering here.”

Staff nominated Michelle for a Merton Partnership Civic Pride Volunteer Awards 2024, for which she received a certificate to recognise her efforts.


Feedback from staff and other volunteers about Michelle was extremely positive. Michelle works very hard to establish bonds with the students and help them enjoy the activities the club offers. She was very patient and willing to learn. Michelle collaborates with other volunteers to engage the students and help them with communicating, playing, socialising and accepting others. Michelle is ready to help with anything that may be needed in and out of sessions.


Michelle's return to Focus Surrey over three terms speaks volumes about her dedication and commitment. She is quick to learn and take on feedback, and able to handle tricky situations with ease, keeping both herself and the children calm and engaged. Her enthusiasm and commitment are really appreciated by the Focus Surrey team.


Michelle has been invaluable to the team, her supervisors said. She always displayed enthusiasm and professionalism. Michelle had to learn different types of support strategies very quickly and was always willing to take on board any instructions from her supervisor or Consultants. During the sessions, Michelle managed to collect lots of important data which showed just how much progress her student made. Michelle applied the principles of ABA effectively, particularly in terms of introducing her students to new activities and in teaching them functional communication skills.


Michelle is a true team player, giving moral support and encouragement to new volunteers as well as a listening ear. Staff have truly valued Michelle’s support throughout the three terms and know that she will continue to provide excellent support to children with special needs as she continues on her career path in the SEN sector.


If you would like to volunteer with Focus Surrey from September 2024 you can find more information here: https://www.focus-surrey.com/volunteering


If you would like to read more testimonials about volunteering at Focus Surrey you can read them here: https://www.focus-surrey.com/testimonials

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