A lifeline of fun and laughter in lockdown

A lifeline of fun and laughter in lockdown

The Laughter Specialists with their young audience

When the pandemic hit last year, it posed an immediate challenge for face-to-face services, including the Laughter Specialists who provide a lifeline for seriously ill and disabled children and their families through comedy and laughter therapy. Traditionally providing their service in hospitals and hospices, the team needed to think on their feet about how their unique service could continue in a nationwide lockdown.

“Like many businesses and charities, we have found online video calling to be so useful, but it’s hard to provide fun and games when you can’t judge audience reactions. We would normally feel our way carefully with individual children on a ward, adjusting what we do in response to their age and how they react. Of course this is much harder online!” comments Annie Aris, a co-founder of the Laughter Specialists.

After much discussion and experimentation, the team found that slapstick fun with characters and jobs works well on video, plus teaching magic tricks or games that leave families with an idea which they can try out in their own time. Rehabilitation videos with a big dose of comedy have also proved a hit, helping children with eating, use of the toilet, injections, etc.

“We were really thrilled to receive funding from the Evelyn Trust to work with children and families in Addenbrooke’s Hospital, but early last year it was no longer possible to visit the wards. This has been so hard on the patients with disabilities or illnesses and the days can seem very long indeed with no visitors or play specialists allowed. In recent months we have made around 30 films that families or professionals can access with the children, so there’s always something fresh to watch and they can watch it whenever works for them,” adds Annie.

Along with the films and the video calls, the Laughter Specialists have also provided a vital outreach service to individual children in their own homes. Keeping safety paramount, they have worked with children through windows and in gardens whenever lockdown rules have allowed. This has been valued enormously by families and the charity hope to offer outreach as a new service for the long term.

You can watch a sample of the team’s filmed fun here.

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