THE Princess of Wales giggled as she had fun with toddlers during a visit to a sensory development class.
The future Queen beamed as she met children with special educational needs and their parents during a portage session in Sittingbourne, Kent.
Kate, 41, wore an eye-watching red Zara blazer as she made the visit by helicopter to kick off her Shaping Us campaign, which highlights how every child in Britain can be given a better start in life.
Skylar, who is almost two and enjoyed spreading foam over herself and her pals – but avoided getting the Princess in a mess – said: "She is very sweet."
She laughed as Beatrice, three, screamed with delight at the sight of shredded paper going everywhere.
And Kate applauded Darcie, a three-year-old girl with Down Syndrome carefully pouring brightly coloured squares of paper into a cup.
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“Well done,” the Princess told her, before adding: "Louis’ got a Darcie in his class.”
Portage is a council-run service for children with special educational needs and disabilities that provides trained practitioners who go to their homes or bring family groups together to help with their development from birth up until pre-school age.
Kate asked parents if they were receiving enough support and heard them explain how getting their child enrolled on a portage scheme had enhanced their development.
The practitioners are trained by the National Portage Association, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary in Britain this year and oversees 110 services around the country.
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Kate’s session, attended by seven children with a range of needs and conditions, including social communications difficulties, autism, complex needs and Down Syndrome, is run by Kent County Council at the Orchards Centre in Sittingbourne.
She met father-of-four Steve Ikebuwa from Gravesend, who discussed how much the Kent Portage Service has helped their 11-month-old son Nathan, who has severe learning difficulties.
Mr Ikebuwa told the Princess that – like her – his wife had suffered the severe morning sickness, hyperemesis gravidarum, which causes severe vomiting during pregnancy.
Kate told him: "I went through that. I know what that feels like."
Charlotte Beer, a portage practitioner from Dover, got into the career after her daughter Evie, now six, was diagnosed with autism at the early age of 18 months.
She said: “She was around about 13 or 14 months when we started noticing a regression in her development. We recognised the signs."
When Evie started seeing a portage practitioner called Kerry, there was a noticeable improvement in the little girl and it was a chance for Charlotte to discuss things weekly or fortnightly with an expert.
“It was a real lightbulb moment,” she told Kate.
She added: “When you have a child going through lots of assessments and tests it can be quite a negative experience. There’s a lot of hearing what your child isn’t doing.
“It makes such a difference to have someone saying, wow, look what your child can do. She really changed our whole outlook. She was so important to us all as a family.
“From our perspective as well she was an outlet for me. She was that person, I can’t remember if she was coming weekly or fortnightly, I could use to offload.”
She said her daughter at six was doing well. “She is still non-verbal but she is starting to ask for chips all day long.”
Janet Rickman, chair of the National Portage Association, said she hoped that the royal visit would raise the profile of the scheme and persuade many her councils to set up their own.
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She added: “To be able to showcase and celebrate our 40th anniversary is brilliant.
"But we also hope that maybe local authorities will notice it more and realise how fantastic portage is and want to develop it more in their local areas.”
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