Incredible years programme changing lives

Lisburn mum Amanda Portis with son Correy and daughters Ava and Freya..
Lisburn mum Amanda Portis with son Correy and daughters Ava and Freya..

A year ago, Lisburn mum of three Amanda Portis was unemployed and facing some difficulties with her children. That was until she discovered an innovative parenting support programme to help her and her family.

“My son, who is now seven years old, started having difficulties in school and I was worried about how this would affect him. He was then invited to join the ‘Dina School’ through the Incredible Years Programme in Largymore Primary School and I was offered a placement on the parenting programme,” Amanda said.

Early Intervention Lisburn’s ‘Incredible Years Programme’, an initiative run by the Public Health Agency (PHA) in partnership with the Resurgam Trust and Barnardos NI, was set up to help parents understand and manage their child’s behaviour better and also to help teach children how to understand their emotions, with the aim of benefitting their long-term health and wellbeing.

It includes a range of initiatives designed to also help children reduce behaviour problems and increase problem-solving skills. This includes a Dinosaur School – the Dina School – with friendly child-sized puppets for younger children and a parenting programme focused on strengthening parenting skills and promoting parent involvement in children’s school experiences.

“At the start I was a bit sceptical. I thought it was not going to make a change but I found that the programme was easily adaptable and related well to my son and my two girls,” Amanda said. “The advice for parents was practical and helpful in the home. One of the techniques recommended was to use positive encouragement more. My course facilitator gave me an idea to have three jars each labelled with my children’s names to put reward tokens in to encourage progress. They set their own individual positive rules because positivity is the key to success in Incredible Years.

“When they achieve their goals by following the rules, they put an allocated amount of money into their jars which then can build up to earning a treat from ‘mum’s tuck shop’. They also have an option of a surprise treat of an activity of their choice which involves one on one time with me which they thoroughly enjoy.”

Chris Totten, Head of Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement in the South Eastern area at the PHA, said: “Investing in the early stages of a child’s life will produce the best outcomes for both their mental, social and physical health. An initiative like the Incredible Years Programme is very important in taking those first steps for a child’s wellbeing. The structure of the programme is also significant by involving parents on this journey and helping parents build on their existing skills to engage better with their children. Collectively the parents in the group now have a toolkit to help them cope better with everyday life.”