The Princess of Wales joins play session for families and children with special educational needs as part of ‘shaping us’ campaign on early childhood


Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales has today, Wednesday 27 September 2023, joined children with special educational needs and their families, at a play session in Sittingbourne, Kent, to highlight the importance of support for neurodiversity in early childhood.

The session, run by the Kent Portage Service, involved seven children with a range of special needs, including social communications difficulties, Autism and Down Syndrome. The Princess met each child, one of their parents and a Portage practitioner who supports each family.

Director of The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood, Christian Guy, said: “Our Shaping Us campaign is all about raising public awareness of the unique importance of early childhood and how our relationships, experiences and surroundings in the first five years, lay the foundations that shape the rest of our lives. The way in which Portage build partnerships with families that place the child at the centre of everything they do, is a fantastic example of this being put into practice.

The Princess of Wales is smiling and waving with a young child who is waving back. The Child's mother is also waving and smiling and there is a portage practitioner in the background looking on.

Portage is an educational service for children with special needs and disabilities and their families, which is available from birth to pre-school age. Services operate throughout England and Wales and families can self refer via their local authority. Traditionally, specially trained Portage practitioners support children and families with home visits but they do also work in early years settings and in local community groups.

Janet Rickman, Chair of the National Portage Associations said: “Portage supports families of children with special educational needs and disabilities, to build on what the child can do, and to develop quality of life and experience in which they can learn together, play together, participate and be included in their community in their own right.”