Meet #TeamDevine: Catherine Northup, Alexander’s Play Specialist

This week in #MeetTheTeam, we hear from a member of our Care Team who has arguably the best job….and that’s to help the children we support have different opportunities to play and have FUN!

Catherine Northup is one of our Alexander’s Play Specialists. In this week’s blog she talks about the importance of play for children and especially how vital it has been in helping children cope with their emotions during lockdown:

All children should have the opportunity to play. It is the natural language of childhood, it allows them to express themselves and to build creativity, physical, cognitive and emotional strength. For children with complex medical conditions and their siblings however, the ability to play is not always easy. My job is about making sure that the children we support have access to a wide variety of different stimulating play opportunities, and above all have fun!


During lockdown we have had to completely change the way we support our families. It has been really challenging but I am so proud of the way the Alexander Devine team has adapted and continued to be there for families that desperately need our support. The biggest challenge at the start was not being able to be in the hospice or in many of our families’ homes and not being able to provide that day to day support that we normally give. But for each of them we have found a way to be there, providing much-needed support and staying connected with the children.


The families we support are incredible and more used to than most in having to find ways to cope and keep their children safe. But the length of time that the pandemic is going on for is a huge strain. As well as all the duties the parents have normally, they have had to be full time nurse/carer, teacher, friend, disciplinarian and emotional supporter for their children. Children have really struggled emotionally as the weeks have gone by and it is difficult for parents to see their children sad, isolated and frustrated.


We have tried to address these needs through the activities we have been able to do with them, whether that be in person, over zoom or via the individualised activity bags we have delivered to the children so that we can have a chat on their doorsteps.


Our sibling groups is one of the biggest things I have missed. These are wonderful opportunities for siblings to make friends and be around others who understand the challenges they face. It is always so lovely to have a busy fun day with lots of siblings charging around the hospice and I really miss the wonderful care volunteers who are a part of these fantastic days. I hope it won’t be too long until we are back together again.”

If you would like to give the gift of playtime to one of the children we support, you can make a donation here.

Need our help?

The word hospice should not seem scary and getting support from us doesn’t have to mean a child’s death is imminent. Helping to enrich the lives of the children and their families is at the heart of our service, our end of life and bereavement support is just a part of what we do.

Our children’s hospice service covers the whole of Berkshire and into surrounding counties. If you think your child may be eligible for our services, please do get in touch.

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Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice Service is the operating name of Alexander Devine Children’s Cancer Trust. A company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales No. 5757493

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