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Meet Steph


Steph has been coming to Whirlow for over nine years; attending the “Whirlow LIFE” (Learning In a Farming Environment) programmes for young people over 16 with moderate to severe learning disabilities.

Steph is a vibrant 30-year-old who lives in Dronfield with her mum and dad. She has two sisters who no longer live at home, but one lives on the same road while the other lives in Canada!

Steph has been coming to Whirlow for over nine years; attending the “Whirlow LIFE” (Learning In a Farming Environment) programmes for young people over 16 with moderate to severe learning disabilities. Steph has general learning difficulties sometimes known as “Global Development Delay”.

Global Development Delay is used when a child takes longer to reach certain development milestones than other children their age. This might include learning to walk or talk, movement skills, learning new things and interacting with others socially and emotionally.

Steph met all her physical milestones as a baby and young child but struggled intellectually. As a child, she attended mainstream school and received additional learning support. She didn’t take exams but did gain a cooking qualification. After school she went onto college and took courses on life skills for young people. She now loves sessions in our learning kitchen; The Gateway where the children and young people spend time cooking with many ingredients coming from the farm.

Steph loves coming to Whirlow because she loves being outdoors. Even if it’s raining, she would rather be working outside than taking part in arts and crafts indoors. Her family have always been outdoorsy and spend time together going for walks regularly and they visit the Lake District every year.

She comes to Whirlow twice a week and loves to spend her time with the animals. She often chooses to feed and water the hens as well as muck them out, and she is also able to do bigger mucking out jobs too. Charlotte, one of Whirlow’s Education Tutors said “Steph is very good at chatting! She is very sociable. Other students, staff and volunteers like talking to her. She finds everything out about people very quickly!”

Steph’s mum, Wendy, said “Whirlow has really brought Steph out of herself. She loves to interact with people and chat and tell all of us what she’s been up to at Whirlow at the end of the day, something that, although well supported at school, she didn’t do during that time. Her confidence has grown massively. She has also developed independence at Whirlow, and it means I am able to leave her at home for short periods of time if needed. She wouldn’t cook herself a meal, but she is able to make herself a snack.

She doesn’t have too many worries, but she can become anxious if she’s going somewhere new, or something happens that she has no control over, for example, forgetting her phone charger. The staff at Whirlow are fantastic at giving her the reassurance she needs in situations like this. Coming to Whirlow twice a week, almost every week of the year, is an amazing resource for Steph and our family. When she goes to Whirlow, we know she will have a great day, that her needs are met and that she is understood.

The joy of Whirlow life is also shared by Stephanie to family, friends and anyone who knows Steph through her popular social media. From bottle feeding lambs, to baby calves being born and the turkeys that she keeps well fed until the day she announces; “They’ve gone”.

Stephanie is taught ‘the circle of life’ at Whirlow through farming, which is always a good thing.”

Anyone who meets Steph would quickly agree with Wendy that Steph is very happy-go-lucky!

The young people who attend the Whirlow LIFE programmes do real farm jobs on our working farm. Steph receives Employment Support Allowance (a benefit for those who have a health condition or disability which affects how much they can work) and this feels like her wage for working on the farm. She can spend that income on what she likes, which gives her further independence.

Wendy hopes to increase Steph’s days at Whirlow next year when one of her other activities comes to an end.

Outside of Whirlow Steph likes to go shopping, go to Chatsworth and explore the gardens with her mum and dad, and going bowling or to the cinema. She also loves going to the Lyceum to watch musicals. Her sister is a carer for another young person with additional needs, and her cousin has autism. Steph, her mum, aunt and cousin, and sister and friend will often go on these outings as a group.

Steph’s parents have no plans for Steph to move into assisted living but have considered converting their home into an assisted living facility for Steph and her cousin for when their parents are no longer able to support them.

Steph is a joy to have a Whirlow and we are delighted to be able to support her in maintaining her mental wellbeing, developing life skills and having her as part of the Whirlow family.

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