Sunderland charity The Special Lioness making it a Christmas to remember for children with special needs by holding unique inclusive panto

A Sunderland charity which supports disabled children and their families is planning to give youngsters a Christmas to remember after organising a unique pantomime tailored specifically to those with special needs.

Tuesday, 30th November 2021, 4:55 am

Founded in 2017 by two Mam’s of children with profound needs, Claire Stewart and Amy Howes, The Special Lioness charity supports disabled children and their families by providing tailored events, offering advice and helping parents create memories that will last a lifetime.

This Christmas, with the help of London based Playhouse Productions, the charity will be holding a unique pantomime performance of Puss in Boots, tailored specifically for disabled children and young people with special needs.

The pantomime will be held at Sunderland special education facility Sunningdale School on December 16 and will be signed in Makaton, offer sensory toys for audience participation, and be fully inclusive for all.

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Special Lioness founders Amy Howes (left) and Claire Stewart

Speaking on the importance of inclusivity, Claire Stewart said: “It’s massive to have that inclusivity and accessibility for young people with special needs.

“As a parent myself of a child with profound needs, me and all three of my children have been shielding for the last 18 months so they’ve missed on a lot of things like school and social time with friends but also never got to experience the run up to Christmas last year and there's so many more in the same situation. So this year it’s massively important to get that sense of normality back.

“A lot of times it's difficult to fully experience things like a panto with a disabled child as there’s not always sign language or visual support and that’s why we want to make it completely inclusive for everyone with sign language, sensory props, and visual stimulation.”

The panto performance will be enjoyed by Special Lioness members and their families and there will also be a special performance for all the pupils of Sunningdale School, which has been donated by the charity.

Claire Stewart and Amy Howes, founders of the Special Lioness charity with their families at a Special Lioness masquerade ball in 2019

As well as the Puss in Boots performance, children will also be treated to a visit from Santa Claus.

To find out more about The Special Lioness Charity, visit their website at

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Amy Howes (left) and Claire Stewart

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