In the early 1980’s a Health Visitor working in the Coleford area recognised the need for support for families of pre school children with Special Needs. These children did not qualify for any extra support or tailored education from statutory bodies until school age, thus preventing early intervention, therefore impeding the children’s development, self esteem and leaving the families without any support and respite.
The first family support group for pre school children and their families met in the old canteen at Broadwell School. In a very short space of time families from all areas in the Forest had joined the group, which soon outgrew the accommodation at Broadwell. They then moved to outbuildings situated in St John’s School at Coleford, established a constitution, formulated their aims and objectives and registered themselves with the Charity Commission.
The Forest of Dean Children’s Opportunity Centre was born. Numbers escalated, and once again, they were desperately in need of larger premises.
Following intense fund raising and with tremendous support from local businesses they opened their own purpose built building in 1989. Following a successful National Lottery Grant Application in 1995, the building was extended to accommodate the wide range of support and services now being offered to all families with a baby or young child aged 0-7 with Special Needs/Disabilities living within the Forest of Dean.
The Centre provides an informal meeting place for parents and those professionals involved in the care of the children who have diverse and complex special needs. The scale of these needs range from severe to profound disabilities such as visual impairment, hearing impairment, Downs Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Dyspraxia, Autism, multiple disabilities, Spina Bifida, speech & language delay, behaviour problems, learning disabilities, plus many more, including those children who do not have a diagnosis.