Max play doughOur aim at Side by Side is to work with children and their support groups to bring out each child’s potential, and help them thrive. Anita was motivated to found Side by Side after she recognised that there was a need she could fill for a completely individualised service for students with special needs and learning difficulties. Such a service didn’t exist in Beijing and sadly, this deterred some families from moving here. Anita has been working with children in Beijing for more than a decade, and believes that children with special needs should be encouraged to experience the city.

Side by Side’s clients have experienced many “firsts” with us – from first time skiing, visiting the Great Wall, learning to swim, to making, sanding and painting our outdoor table, and watching our garden grow the food we eat. Everyone is able to participate in these activities at a varying levels. We provide support and encouragement for this to happen. Side by Side’s service is truly individualised. As a private centre, we are independent of other organisations and so can fully focus on the needs of each individual student.

Bike riding

We work together with international schools, instead of competiting against them. We also work with clinics, hospitals, families, and anyone else who shares our goals. We don’t pretend to offer everything, but instead believe in doing what we do well, and helping others do the same. All help is given by qualified, experienced professionals. Although some programmes are done as a group, each child still has his or her own goals within the group. Other professionals, as well as parents and schools, and sometimes carers, are included in setting realistic and achievable individual goals.

We also have centre pets, which our students, and parents, find to be unique, fun, as well as educational! Side by Side is a very small and personal organisation. Every team member enjoys getting to know everyone who walks through the door, regardless of whether they’re involved in their programme. We celebrate birthdays, outside achievements, school results, weekend activities, and small and big progress within our programmes – from getting 100% on a spelling test, remembering to look at the schedule independently, to taking extra care when walking our dog Pepper, or swimming a lap of the pool. Celebrating birthdays

Children love to come to the centre because they are attracted to the bright, positive environment, and of course the pets! Parents love seeing their child enjoying their time at Side by Side, seeing progress, and knowing that we care about the whole child, not just academics or good hygiene or behaviour, but really the whole child, including their physical, emotional and social wellbeing, and not just at Side by Side.

We don’t want our clients to feel it is ‘more’ school, or pressure to do well; we want them to come, enjoy themselves, and learn without realising that they’re learning. Seeing a child finally master something, register their own progress, tell us or show us how much fun they’re having, is an awesome privilege. The variety of each different programme is as challenging as it is rewarding, and we all love it. The team at Side by Side love building relationships, getting to know families and other people who really want to see children with special needs and learning difficulties shine.