First Step stories: Upminster family praises ‘brilliant service’ for helping them all, including daughter with cerebral palsy

PUBLISHED: 12:10 31 October 2018 | UPDATED: 14:05 06 November 2018

Dean and Sharon Goodchild with their daughter Poppy who used to attend First Step.

Dean and Sharon Goodchild with their daughter Poppy who used to attend First Step.


Taking care of a baby is stressful for every parent.

Whether it’s worrying about not being able to get them to sleep or concerned that they haven’t yet started eating solids, there’s a reason why people say it’s the hardest job in the world.

But for Sharon Goodchild, 55, Doncaster Way, Upminster, the beginning of parenthood was made even tougher as her daughter Poppy, now 22, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was 16-months-old.

However, the help both of them received from children’s charity First Step, Tangmere Crescent, Hornchurch, made the world of difference.

“I used to be a social worker so I already knew of First Step on a professional level but never thought that I would need their help myself”, Sharon said.

“When I look back, there was a lot of competition surrounding babies achieving their first milestones, so I became quite isolated because Poppy wasn’t developing as quickly as the other babies.

“So when we started going to the toddler group at First Step, everyone was in the same boat, everyone was going through a difficult time and we could support each other and ask questions.

“It almost meant that Poppy could actually play with other children like her as well.”

Poppy, who was born 28 weeks premature, soon started going to play session without her mum by her side, helping her to grow in confidence and get used to being around other people.

And in turn, First Step also started to help Poppy’s dad Dean who used the counselling service in 2011 and their son Will who began to go to the kids club.

In 2014, Dean also ran the kids club for a few years.

Sharon said: “She [Poppy] would come home from First Step and you could tell she’d had fun playing as there would be paint on her face and in her hair but I wanted her to get messy and enjoy herself like any other child would.

“The club was good for Will as well because it gave him a chance to see that he wasn’t the only one with a brother or sister like Poppy.

“He was pushed to the side lines a bit when lots of people would visit and they would all be there to see Poppy but he was such a good boy.

“And Dean being able to run the club was great too as it felt like he was helping them after using the counselling service.

“In one way or another, we’ve all been involved with First Step.”

Poppy only attended the charity’s group sessions for about three years but the family continues to show their support, attending charity functions, quizzes, Christmas events and donating whenever they can.

First Step began in October 1988 in response to a plea from some parents of young children with special needs and/or disabilities.

They felt they, and others in similar situations, could benefit from a group where they would be able to talk, share experiences, and provide support for each other in a non-judgmental environment.

It now works with more than 100 pre-school children, and their families, offering education services, support, information and encouragement.

First Step’s mission is to provide the best possible environment to support families and enable their very young children with special needs and/or disabilities to maximise their individual potential.

The charity is celebrating its 30th birthday this year and to celebrate, held an anniversary ball at Orsett Hall, Grays, where more than £30,000 was raised for the cause.

The Recorder also showed its support in 2015 with its year-long Fundraise On The First campaign where more than £25,000 was raised.

Sharon said: “First Step is incredible, it’s an absolutely brilliant service and it’s great to see that it has carried on for such a long time, massively benefitting families like it did ours.

“It is all about the people that work there, who do everything that they can to help families.

“It’s amazing what they do.”

For more information about the charity, visit

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