March 28, 2021

Autism Acceptance Week – How Far Can We Go?!

For this years Autism Acceptance Week – lets see how far we can go!!

Join us and together let’s see how far we can go – steps, hops, bounces and jumps, everything counts! Get sponsored and see how much you can raise to support Sparkle Sheffield at the same time!

Can we make it to London, maybe we could get to France, or as far as the moon?!

Start on 2nd April, which is Autism Awareness Day, and finish on 9th April 2021, how far can you go in a week??

Use the link below to register your steps with us, and we’ll keep a track of everyones movements and see how far we can go!

Send us your results here…

We also have sponsorship forms available to download and print – why not round up your families and friends and get them to take part too!

Get your sponsorship forms here…

Feel free to share your ideas with us, we’d love to see what you’re up to!

– The Sparkle Sheffield team 😊

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January 12, 2021

Sparkle Sheffield Autism Awards 2021!

We are eagerly anticipating the Sparkle Sheffield Autism Awards, a bright start to 2021 and looking back on the positives of 2020.

The objective of the Sparkle Sheffield Autism Awards is to celebrate the unsung heroes that do so much for Autism. For those people who go far and beyond to make a difference in an autistic persons’ life. We also aim to raise awareness for autism and to show there is nothing an autistic person can’t do without the right support!

The previous Sparkle Sheffield Autism Awards were held in September 2018 at the Mecure St Paul’s Hotel and Spa in Sheffield City Centre and was a resounding success. A wonderful evening was had by all, with recognition of our unsung heroes and extra special children in an environment that was inclusive for all. Due to Covid-19, the award ceremony will take place online this year, and we’ll be making it a night to remember! The event is due to be hosted on the evening of Saturday 30th January 2021. We also have a range of celebrities reading out the awards for our heroes, who are donating their time free of charge to support our local charity.

The award categories for this year are as follows…

  • Most Inspirational Preschool Service to Autism Award 
  • Most Inspirational Primary School Service to Autism Award – Sponsored by Autism Union
  • Most Inspirational Educational Setting for Autism (Secondary and Further Education) – Sponsored by South Yorkshire Autism Fayre
  • Outstanding Achievement by a Young Person (aged 13-25) on the Autism Spectrum – Sponsored by Sparkle On
  • Outstanding Achievement by a child (under 13) on the Autism Spectrum – to be chosen and presented by Mina Anwar
  • Most Inspirational Sibling Award – to be chosen and presented by Adrian Lester CBE
  • Innovative and Inclusive Leading Independent Business for Autism Award
  • The Roger Higginbottom Outstanding Professional Champion for Autism Award
  • Outstanding Parent/Carer Award – Sponsored by Graysons Solicitors
  • Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Overcoming Adversity Autism Award
  • The Big Impact for Autism Award
  • Outstanding Children’s Autism Champion
  • The Kenton Black Most Inspirational Volunteer Award

Join us on Saturday 30th January 2021 to celebrate our wonderful local unsung heroes with a heap of celebrity guests!

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January 12, 2021

Sparkle Sheffield Successes of 2020

In amongst the challenges of 2020, we also did some absolutely amazing things here at Sparkle Sheffield!

Here are just some (!) of the things we got up to last year 🥰

📣 When the world got turned upside down in March, we planned and prepped and held over 250 virtual events throughout the year!
🥰 We had celebrities donate their time and read us #sparkleusabedtime stories especially for our children
🌟 We co-hosted the South Yorkshire Autism Fayre virtually – with a whole host of learning, interaction and fun going on!
💜 We single handedly hosted South Yorkshire Autism Fayre Kids! event, with children from all over the country joining us for fun, laughter and raising autism awareness
🥳 We introduced our wonderful mascots, Sparky the Sparkle Croc 🐊, Crumpet & Cinnamon the Festive Elves 🎄 and Naughty Nigel Elf 😂
🎁 Crumpet Elf delivered presents to over 100 children this Christmas! (with some not so-much help from Naughty Nigel!)
🎅 We Zoom called Santa to meet our wonderful children!
🆓 We launched the Sparkle Sheffield Membership Scheme, which has been FREE since April 2020 and will continue to be free until March 2021!
🦠 We published our very own Covid-19 Lockdown Family Support Pack 1 & 2, and a Sparkle Sheffield Activity Ideas Pack
6️⃣ Sparkle Sheffield turned 6 years old!
💻 We got a BRAND NEW website!
🤡 Way back at the beginning of the year we hosted our New Year party, bowling sessions, The National Videogame Museum sessions, youth club sessions, and under 5’s stay and play sessions!
💌 We had Wills & Trusts sessions hosted by Graysons Solicitors
❤️ We sent families to watch shows in our very own, specially designed hospitality suite at Fly DSA Arena!

… and so much more behind the scenes! We don’t often should loud enough about all the things we do at Sparkle Sheffield, but we really do do so much.

All the above is in addition to supporting children and families via email, telephone and in person (where possible), homeschooling our own children with additional needs for the majority of the year, and running primarily on volunteers!

Best of all…?! We can’t wait to show you what we have in store for 2021!!! 🌟

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January 10, 2021

Sparkle Sheffield FREE Membership Continues!

We are delighted to be able to offer FREE membership for families at Sparkle Sheffield, now extended until March 2021!

We are giving free trials of our membership package to all eligible families. There is no cost involved in this, you will not be required to provide any payment or banking details. ** If you are already a paying member of Sparkle Sheffield, you too will receive the extra months we are offering free membership at the end of your yearly subscription! **

In 2020, our members accessed a range of experiences, including…

  • Over 250 virtual events, including Taekwondo, drama lessons, circus shows, Christmas activities, science entertainers, family events, magic shows, bingo, dance classes and more!
  • #sparkleusabedtime stories read exclusively for us by a range of celebrities
  • Priority booking for in-person (where possible) and virtual events
  • Discounted access to wider events such as the World’s First Interactive Pantomime!
  • … and much much more!

To sign up for our free membership, simply complete your information using the link below and we will be in touch with details about our upcoming events in 2021.

Want more information? Simply email us at [email protected], requesting a free membership trial and we can give you all the information you need to sign up with us!

There is no requirement to continue with a purchased membership after the free trial, however families can sign up to our membership packages from just £20 per family, per year. 

*** Eligibility Criteria ***

Membership is applicable per household, therefore completion of the application form in full is essential with details of all relevant individuals. Application forms will be screened by Sparkle Sheffield personnel, so please ensure that they are completed with as much detail as possible. A valid email address is required upon the commencement of membership, as communications, notifications and other information will be delivered via the given email address.

Evidence of additional needs will be required upon completion of the Sparkle Sheffield membership application form. This must be one of the following pieces of documentation;

  • A pathway letter (such as one from Ryegate, CAMHS or the local hospital) detailing an appointment with neurodisability, the paediatric assessments unit, or other investigating clinic or;
  • A letter detailing your/your child’s diagnosis or;
  • A letter confirming your/ your child’s entitlement to Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

If you have any questions feel free to contact us on [email protected]

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January 9, 2021

New Patron of Sparkle Sheffield – Mina Anwar!

Sparkle Sheffield are delighted to welcome Mina Anwar as one of our Patrons, joining Adrian Lester MBE in supporting the work that we do.

We can’t wait for Mina to continue to be involved in our charity, supporting the work that we do with autistic children and their families. Find out more about Mina below…

Mina Anwar

Mina trained at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in Acting and Musical Theatre.

A classically trained singer, Mina has been singing since she was four – ever since she sang her first solo ‘Away in a Manger’ at infant school in Church, Accrington, where she grew up. 

As well as having a varied career as a professional actor in theatre, television, film and radio, she also sings in bands. One of her career highlights was singing live with her favourite Manchester band,The Charlatans, on Later with Jools Holland. She sings big band jazz and swing and is a regular lead vocalist with The Suburban Swing Orchestra in Greater Manchester. Lesser known facts about her are that she loves to dance and, is a licensed Zumba instructor, loves science, and graduated with a BSc (hons) in Psychology from The Open University in her forties. A PGCE tutor in Performing Arts, she is a strong advocate for using creative arts for education  and mental health in the community. 

She is delighted to be a Patron for Sparkle Sheffield. Mina has a special relationship to the Yorkshire city of Sheffield having performed many great shows at The Crucible Theatre. 

Film includes: The Infidel (Slingshot) and Maybe Baby (Inconceivable Films). 

Television includes: The Worst Witch (BBC), Doctor Who (BBC), The A Word (Tiger Aspect), In The Club 1 & 2 (BBC), Upstart Crow (BBC), Cuffs (Tiger Aspect/BBC), Marley’s Ghosts (Gold), Scott and Bailey (BBC), Moving On (BBC), Remember Me (Mammoth/BBC), Happy Valley (Red Productions), House of Anubis Series 1 – 3 (Nickelodeon), A Passionate Woman (Rollem Productions), The Sarah Jane Adventures Series 2 – 5 (BBC), The Invisibles (Company Pictures), Shameless (Company Pictures), Love Soup (BBC), Mayo (BBC), A Midsummer Nights Dream (BBC), Best Friends (Yorkshire Television), Doctors and Nurses (BBC), Birthday Girl (Yorkshire Television), A&E (Granada Television), TV To Go (BBC), A Christmas Carol (Carlton Television), The Flint St. Nativity (Yorkshire Television), Flight (Hindi Pictures/BBC), The Thin Blue Line series 1 &2 (Tiger Aspect/BBC). 

Theatre includes: Ma / Orange Juice in Life of Pi (Sheffield Crucible and Wyndham Theatre West End from June 2020), She Devil! The Musical , Workshop Production

(RGM Productions) Ray in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (Original Cast Sheffield Crucible and Apollo, West End), Maria in Twelfth Night (Royal Exchange Theatre), Wild Oats – development reading (RSC), Birth International Theatre Festival (Royal Exchange Festival), Saamiyah in The Infidel – The Musical (Theatre Royal Stratford East), Rachel in Hard Times (Library Theatre), Nurse in Romeo and Juliet (Nottingham Playhouse), Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Nottingham Playhouse), The Vagina Monologues (West End /No.1 Tour), Julie in Victoria Wood’s Talent (No. 1 Tour), Cordelia in King Lear (Sheffield Crucible), Nayani in Skeleton (Soho Theatre), Debbie in Too Much Too Young (London Bubble), Pete Townsend’s The Iron Man (Young Vic Theatre), Jeannie/Chrissie in Hair (Broadway Musical Company New York, European Tour). 

Radio includes: 24 Hours of Peace (Royal Exchange / Resonance FM), Malcolm in Fags, Mags and Bags Series 5,6,7,8 and 9 (BBC Radio 4), Rage (BBC Radio 4), Sabina in Wheatish (Sparklab for Radio 4) Maya in Alone (Absolutely for Radio 4), Big Mam in Whose Baby (Sparklab for Radio 4), Sally in Quiz Nite (BBC Radio 4), Hubertine in Lovesick by Zola (BBC Radio 4), Zainab in Breaking The Silence Trilogy (Unity FM), Tasneem in Divided We Fall (Preston FM), Nisha in Artists Series 1 and 2 (Radio 4), Storyteller in Time and Tune (BBC Radio 3)

Director and Choreographer of “The Dolly Mixtures” a musical written by Tom Kelly and John Miles produced and performed at Customs House Theatre, South Shields.  

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November 10, 2020

Christmas Gift Ideas

Let’s talk the C word (no not Covid!)

Christmas! 🎅🤶🎄⭐️🎁

Here are some Christmas gift ideas, it’s not always the easiest time to purchase gifts for our super special children! From the simple ideas that your child loves, to the most obscure thing that you wonder what the fascination is?!

Hopefully you’ll be able to find some ideas on this list, you could even signpost family and friends for ideas.

** Please note, the links to any Amazon/eBay/third party website etc. items are purely for image/idea purposes and not specific item recommendations. A quick Google search and you’ll be able to find an item (and price!) that’s right for you! **


Top Tips!

Reducing Anxiety
Does Christmas increase anxiety in your child/young person? Try wrapping presents in clear cellophane – this can reduce the anxiety of not knowing what is inside, but still enables the ‘unwrapping’ of presents.

Preparing for the run up to Christmas Day can also help. Using visual timetables, schedules or routines can provide the structure needed, but without loosing the magic of Christmas. Involve your child/young person wherever (and if) possible to give them some of the control back, this will ease anxiety too. So what if they end up having fish fingers and chips for their Christmas dinner if it makes the rest of the day run smoother?! 😂

Set up toys so they are ready to go on Christmas morning!
Untie toys from the box (those fiddly little ties that require a PhD in Nuclear Science to undo!), leave items loose in the box so they’re easier to access, make sure toys already have batteries in them where needed.

Set up wish lists on shopping platforms (Amazon, eBay etc) and use these to send to family/friends in the run up to Christmas – this can reduce any unwanted/un-used presents and instead receive gifts that are really useful and liked.

Gift Ideas!

Stocking Filler Ideas

  • Kazoo’s
  • Little flying parachute men (drop from a height and they’ll gently float to the floor)
  • Hot Wheels cars
  • Snow globes
  • Bouncy balls
  • Bubbles
  • Musical instruments
  • Arts/crafts
  • Cause/effect toys
  • Tin can game
  • Mr Potato Head
  • Basketball hoops
  • Sticky velcro bat/ball set


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August 29, 2020

Returning to School Resources September 2020

Below is a wide range of back to school resources that are freely available online. September 2020 is out of most peoples comfort zones in terms of health, safety or anxiety as we start to begin a ‘new normal’ in the world. Some of the resources signposted may be useful for your own family, or for that of others during this unusual time.


Autism Little Learners have lots of social stories around Coronavirus, mask wearing, Covid-19 tests and returning to school.

Books Beyond Words also have a wide range of social stories around Coronavirus including having a test, when someone dies from Coronavirus and what to do if you have the virus.

Everybody Worries by John Burgerman. Even the bravest of the brave and the coolest of the cool worry. Worrying is normal when so much has changed. Inspired by conversations with his parent friends who weren’t sure how to explain what is happening right now to their small children, artist and writer Jon Burgerman decided to do something to help.

While We Can’t Hug by Eoin McLaughlin and Polly Dunbar. Hedgehog and Tortoise want to give each other a great big hug, but they’re not allowed to touch.

The Buddy Bots go Back to School by Teacher’s Pet. Follow the Buddy Bots gang as they return to their school, after being at home with their families in lockdown due to coronavirus! Watch as they find out what has changed, what that means for them and discover that even though change can be scary at first, it can also be lots of fun.

How to Go Back to School! by Mike Forde. Families and schools begin to work out how children can return, this second story helps children come to terms with the new normal in their classrooms and playgrounds.

Keeping Our Social Distance by PECS UK. A story on social distancing and why it’s needed.

Lucy Goes Back to School by Chris Duke. From the author of Lucy’s Blue Day, this sees Lucy go back to school, and all the emotions that come with it.

10 Books for Children Who Worry. A list of 10 books for children age 5-12 years who have anxiety or worries.

Lenny & Lily in Lockdown by Prof Barry Carpenter, Ali Erskine and Jenny Hawkes. Lenny and Lily live next door to each other. Every day they walk to school together and play with the same group of friends. Then one day their teacher explains there is a pandemic. She tells them it means their school will be closing for some weeks and they will be learning at home. Lenny and Lily feel sad and abandoned. The story explores Lenny and Lily’s experiences of loss and change in the days of the lockdown, how they develop ways of maintaining their friendship, the challenges of learning at home and the range of emotions they each experience.

Lenny & Lily Return to School by Prof Barry Carpenter, Ali Erskine and Jenny Hawkes. Lenny and Lily have had different experiences of the lockdown, but now it’s time for them to return to school. Lily is excited to go back and meet up with her friends again, but Lenny has enjoyed being at home with his family and feels more anxious. When Lenny and Lily go back to school they both face different challenges. Lenny struggles to reconnect with his friends and find his place in the group. Lily has found home learning difficult and struggles to keep up with the pace of lessons in class. The story explores the range of emotions Lenny and Lily experience as they come back into school and rebuild relationships with their teachers and friends.

My Story About Pandemics and the Coronavirus by Carol Gray.

Useful Websites

Elsa Support have a huge amount of free resources based on supporting social and emotional learning for children.

Reachout ASC have a range of useful resources on their website to manage returning to school including social stories, visual timetables, mind maps and symbols.

The PDA Society have a list of the support resources available for those with PDA during Coronavirus, including tips from adult PDA-ers.

Autism Education Trust have resources available for preparing children and young adults in returning to school this September.

Leeds Autism AIM (Advocacy, Information & Mentoring) have cheap of resources for children, families, adults and professionals.

Sheffield Children’s Hospital have Coronavirus Resources for Children and Families.

National Autistic Society have resources and information about Coronavirus.

IPSEA – update on COVID-19, school re-opening and SEN provision.

Online Training

Managing Your Child’s Back to School Anxiety” Webinar by ACAMH. Live event held on 2nd September 2020 at 5pm.

Preparing Autistic and SEND Children for Going Back to School” by Lynne McCann at Reachout ASC

“Returning to school after the coronavirus lockdown” by the Mental Health Foundation.

How can SENCO’s Respond to the Covid Lockdown and Transition Back to School” by NASEN.

Covid-19: Psychological First Aid” by Public Health England.

Other Useful Resources

KS2 (Age 7-11 years) What is Coronavirus Newspaper Article can be useful if children want to know the facts around Covid-19.

Special Needs Jungle – Awesome and Autistic in a Post-Pandemic World. Siena has some incredible tips that not only teenage autistic girls (and boys) would find useful, but that many neurodivergent adults will too!

Back to School Widgit Symbols. Back to school toolkit of resources to help support signage, wayfinding and personal care around a socially distanced school environment. The toolkit also includes a set of well-being and mental health resources to assist children returning to school after such a major disruption to their normal day-to-day lives.

Preventing Anxiety Based School Refusal by Lincolnshire County Council.

Schools Reopening – Information for Parents and Carers by Well Child.

Top Tips for Autistic and ADHD Children for Returning to School.

Autism and Coronavirus: 20 Top Tips by Peter Vermeulen

What to Expect when Returning to School and College by Ambitious About Autism.

Transition Toolkit – Helping Support a Child Through Change from Autism Education Trust.

Autistica – Coping with the Uncertainty of Coronavirus.

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August 20, 2020

Children’s Zoom Activities – Sponsored by Stowe Family Law

During lockdown we have provided a range of activities for children to take part in online, including drama lessons, circus acts, taekwondo and yoga sessions.

On 12th August 2020 the children took part in a Magic and Wizard workshop. The children had a great time watching this magical event happen! This event was kindly sponsored by Stowe Family Law, who have recently opened offices in Sheffield.

Stowe Family Law specialise in divorce, civil partnerships and cohabitation disputes, whilst ensuring that you benefit from the firm’s collective knowledge to identify the best approach for you.

Find out more about what Stowe Family Law can offer at

Huge thanks again to Stowe Family Law for their kind donation to support our work. See below for photos of the fantastic activities!

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August 6, 2020

Online South Yorkshire Autism Fayre 2020

Last year Sparkle Sheffield, along with our trading arm of Autism Union, held the South Yorkshire Autism Fayre at Magna Science Adventure Centre, Rotherham. It was a roaring success with over 20 speakers and 40 stands that brought in over 500 members of the public and professionals alike to share knowledge and information, provide services and products to delegates from South Yorkshire and wider afield.

Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 and it’s ongoing implications, we are unable to host the event in person again this year.

But do not worry – we’re going digital!

The South Yorkshire Autism Fayre 2020 will be completely online – that means everyone across the country (or the world!) can attend the event and listen to the multitude of fantastic speakers that we have lined up for you.
 The fayre will take place on the following dates via Zoom sessions:

  • Sunday 13th September
  • Monday 14th September
  • Tuesday 15th September
  • Wednesday 16th September

And a very special Kids Day on Sunday 20th September!

Follow us on Facebook –

Visit our website –

Find out more about the speakers we have lined up below…

Dr Temple Grandin
During the South Yorkshire Autism Fayre Online 2020 event, Temple Grandin will host a Q&A session. Grandin will answer questions based on her own experiences, her own autistic brain and the journey she has been on throughout her life, both good and bad.

Dr Carrie Grant
Carrie will be speaking at the South Yorkshire Autism Fayre about her experiences of parenting her children with additional needs. Carrie is a Mum to four children; 3 birth, 1 adopted, 3 with ADHD, 2 autistic.

Dr Luke Beardon
At the South Yorkshire Autism Fayre, Luke will talk about anxiety in autistic children, prior to the release of his new book in December 2020 on the topic. He will also host a short Q&A session after his talk.

Stephen Connolly
Stephen is an autistic academic at Sheffield Hallam University, being the course leader on the MA Autism Spectrum degree, and lecturer on numerous other degree pathways. Stephen will speak on two topics; his experiences of Higher Education and the best way to manage transitions for autistic people during this time as well as the sensory world and how it impacts on everyday life.

Dr Mark Brown
Mark will host talks on his most popular topics; “Puberty and Neurodiversity – Ready or Not Here It Comes” and “The Online World – Keeping your child/teenager safe”. Mark will also host 1:1 advice sessions, where tailored support will be given on a personalised basis.

Chrissy Meleady MBE
Chrissy will speak about equalities and human rights, including when advocating for an autistic individuals’ rights. She will share her experiences including appearing in court and other relevant tribunals, primarily in relation to the issuing, or content, of ECHPs.

IPSEA will be discussing SEN law around children’s Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP’s) and education-based rights. This session is hugely discounted from IPSEA’s standard fee’s and funded by The National Lottery Community Fund.

During the session IPSEA will cover the following:

• What is an EHC plan?
• Legal definitions
• Steps to getting a plan
• EHC needs assessments
• Content of an EHC plan
• Settings which can be named in an EHC plan
• Appealing against a final plan
• Annual review

Graysons Solicitors
Graysons Solicitors will discuss the options available regarding wills and trusts in relation to children, young people and adults with SEND. There will be an opportunity for questions and answers at the end of the session. It’s very easy to put off making a will, or putting a trust or lasting power of attorney in place, but by doing so you are protecting your family’s future

Michael Connolly
Michael will discuss the topic of airports and travel for individuals with additional needs. He will use his experience to give advice and suggestions based on travel both in the UK and abroad.

Autism Angels
Autism Angels will be attending the South Yorkshire Autism Fayre and talking about how animals can make a difference in the life of individuals with additional needs. Autism Angels work with horses to support learning and to create ‘real life’ scenarios that can be then practiced and worked through.

The Zaman’s
Rani and Shad Zaman will be speaking about their experiences of autism from a parental perspective. Here they give a little insight into their life, and how they wish to share their experiences to help support others.

Shona Murphy
Shona will be speaking about her experiences as an autistic parent to two autistic children. She will discuss topics including sensory experiences and executive functioning issues, and some of the social problems she had with the mum groups when her children were young.

Special Thanks
With huge thanks to The National Lottery Community Fund who are funding this event via Autism Union.

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August 4, 2020

FREE Ideas and Activity Packs

During the months of lockdown, we have been hard at work not only supporting our children at home, but also helping other families with activity ideas. The information is widely available online, but who has the time to scour through the Internet to find ideas on a daily basis?!

So here they are, our Sparkle Sheffield Family Support Packs, and Sparkle Sheffield Activity Ideas, free to download.

Feel free to share these links far and wide, they are there to benefit everyone and anyone who may need them during this unusual time.

** Please note: These booklets were produced at the beginning of lockdown, from April 2020 onwards, therefore some of the live events listed may have finished. However, the majority of venues/organisations have continued to support families during lockdown, their websites will have more information.

We hope you enjoy!!

Sparkle Sheffield Covid-19 Lockdown Family Support Pack – Version 1

Sparkle Sheffield Covid-19 Lockdown Family Support Pack – Version 2

Sparkle Sheffield Activity Ideas

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