The Princess of Wales met youngsters with special educational needs and disabilities in Sittingbourne, Kent

Princess Kate joins children on fun-filled sensory playdate in Kent

On Wednesday, the Princess of Wales participated in a sensory class at a nearby specialty centre and had a great time with the kids.

Catherine visited the Orchards Centre in Sittingbourne, Kent, where she spoke with families and children who had special needs and disabilities.


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Catherine came to learn more about the work of the National Portage Association, which provides home visits by educators to children in England and Wales from birth to preschool age.

Just before lunch on Wednesday, Princess Catherine arrived and was greeted with warmth by the staff.

The mother of Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis dressed elegantly for her playdate, sporting a cream top, black pants, and a red blazer.


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Her long hair was pulled back into a bun, and gold hoops served as her only accessory.

A better look at Catherine’s sophisticated updo.

Catherine got to know a group of kids with a variety of needs and ailments, such as Down syndrome, autism, complex needs, and trouble with socialisation and communication.


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She further cemented her status as the kids’ princess by playing with toddlers in a messy way, tickling their tummies and massaging their backs. She cheerfully got involved, scattering shredded paper and tinsel.

Catherine remarked, “She is very sweet,” about Skylar, a little child who was covering herself in foam at the age of almost two.

The National Portage Association’s chair, Janet Rickman, subsequently said to HELLO!, “You could see she was really engaged with the families and playing with the children.”


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Three-year-old Beatrice squealed with delight at all the torn paper, and Catherine laughed.

She also gave praise to Darcie, a three-year-old child with Down syndrome, who was filling a cup with colourful paper squares.


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“Excellent work,” the Princess congratulated her, adding, “Louis has a Darcie in his class.”

The royal mother also chatted with Gravesend father-of-four Steve Ikebuwa, whose 11-month-old youngest child Nathan has severe learning disabilities. In all three of Catherine’s pregnancies, Mr. Ikebuwa revealed that his wife experienced hyperemesis gravidarum during her pregnancy.


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“The Princess understood when I told her that my wife suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum, or extreme morning sickness. ‘I went through that and I know what it feels like,’ she explained. Hello, Mr. Ikebuwa said!

He told HELLO! that he was pleased with the effect the service had on his family, saying, “You see [the practitioners] doing the job with their hearts and you can see the support there.”


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To gain more insight into Portage and how it regularly assists families, the Princess also had the opportunity to interact with a few of the front-line staff members providing the service.

Through home learning sessions, Portage helps families and their kids learn together, play together, and get involved in the community. These sessions are led by specially trained practitioners.


Photo: Shutterstock


This year marks the 40th anniversary of the National Portage Association, which works with over 100 portage services and offers parents and portage practitioners high-quality training and a framework.

Before and after her engagement, Catherine spoke with staff and practitioners for a few minutes.


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The National Portage Association’s chair, Janet Rickman, told HELLO! “She was interested in learning more about the structure and funding of Portage. Is it sufficient?

She was clearly aware of the influence Portage has on kids, particularly during their first five years of life. Any child’s first five years are very important, but they’re even more important for a family and child with special needs.”


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“We’re hoping that [Catherine’s visit] is going to be life changing,” Janet continued. We sincerely hope that it will highlight the work we do and the influence British practitioners have on the lives of children and their families.”

In an interview with HELLO!, Kent portage practitioner Naomi Nice stated that knowledge of portage services is “so important.”


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People won’t know who we are if you just speak to the general public, she claimed. “Unless you know someone who has received that service, nobody will be aware of who we are. In fact, parents who have received Portage talk about that lifeline when you speak with them.


Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock


In reality, we’re someone who has been here since the very beginning; we frequently get to know the family very well and serve as their first point of contact. In light of the fact that services are being cut, it is imperative that the nation understand what it is that we are doing in order to maintain our services. Therefore, when parents consider us to be their lifeline, that lifeline must continue.”


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Catherine’s visit marked the beginning of a series of Shaping Us events centred around children and families that will take place between now and Christmas. Her “life’s work” on the early years includes it.

Catherine started the Shaping Us campaign in January with the goal of bringing attention to the life-changing effects of strong early childhood support for parents, carers, and children.

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