The Recreation Programme
A story by Options In Life
We provided a social and active learning programme for young adults in Fife who have autism, learning disabilities and additional support needs.
The program is now running four days each week and several evenings each month, accommodating groups of up to 15 adults on each outing
What The Recreation Programme did
Our Service users, young adults with learning disabilities and additional support needs, have been referred to us by their families, Social Services, other charities (e.g.ENABLE), Fife College and NHS Fife. This year we increased our programme of activities from 3 to 4 full days per week. Our project has addressed the priority areas of joint working and choice and control.
As a direct result of our service, service users are becoming more independent, confident and communicative. Consequently carers are finding life at home generally much less challenging. Carers are using their weekly respite time to study, take up part time employment, volunteer with other organisations, meet up with friends, take part in sporting activities (some carers are now golfing together on their “day off”)…or just have a chilled day to themselves.
We recruited a Support Team Leader, who has had a very positive effect on our groups, two part time support workers and volunteers from Student Voluntary Services at both St Andrews and Dundee University.
Some of the Activities which have taken place, include, sailing on the Tay and maritime skills training with Taymara, working with the Alpacas at Bowbridge Alpaca Farm. Watersports, survival skills training, Highland games, team games, bee keeping, adventure training, archery and team building activities like bridge building with the Tay & Earn Trust at Willowgate Activity Centre.
Animal handling, running a farm for a day, woodwork, craft work, causeway building and work experience on the reserve with the Murton Trust at Murton Farm,animal Handling and Zoo Keeper experiences at Five Sisters Zoo, visits to Edinburgh Zoo.
Water sports and bushcraft at Lochore Meadows, rock climbing and bouldering at Alien rock, Edinburgh and Perth Climbing Wall.
Tank Driving and Paintballing at Tank Driving Scotland, Go Kart Racing and ten pin Bowling at Noah’s Perth. Work Experience opportunities at RSPB Kinross, Fife Zoo, Camperdown Zoo, Templeton Woods, Scone Palace, Ceramics classes at Forgan Arts Centre, Cookery tuition at Fife College.
Partnerships with Taymara, the Tay & Earn Trust, the Murton Trust and Fife College have been particularly successful.
What Options In Life has learned
The “group” service model is far more beneficial than the more readily available 1-1 support service, giving young people the opportunity to make friends and enjoy the company of peers. By working together and learning to support and help each other they can achieve so much more. .
Everyone has something to give and it’s important to recognise each individual’s strengths, and not focus on the things they can’t do or struggle with.
Working closely with other organisations has been extremely beneficial on both sides, each learning from the other, and it’s amazing what we can actually learn from the young people we are supporting.
Comments from other organisations include, we have really enjoyed our time with you again, and we are always sad to see the group go. It makes us so happy to see the enjoyment that everyone gets from the sessions, and watching their skills, confidence and imaginations grow with each week. We hope that you get great feedback from the guys on their time here and their amazing creations! We hope to see you all again in the future.
The classes have been fantastic and it has been a pleasure to be part of it and watch the young people grow in confidence, form friendships and also improve their cooking skills.
How Options In Life has benefitted from the funding
The fund has allowed us to offer our services to more young people who desperately need it and to offer new and exciting activities. Our partnerships with the Tay and Earn Trust, the Murton Trust and Fife College have been able to develop, and working together, we have been able to offer our groups a wealth of new experiences which are both character building and educational and have given our service users a sense of pride and achievement. These partnerships have been incredibly successful and we hope to be able to continue to work together for the foreseeable future.
We want to see new people accessing our service and benefiting from respite, reduced isolation, improved social skills, increased qualifications, improved ability to cope, reduced workload, improved chances of mainstream integration, including accessing employment
We have extended our programme of activities to 4 days and 2 evenings each week, accommodating an additional 20 young adults with learning and other disabilities. These are young people, living in the family home or that of a carer, no longer in full time education, most of whom had become isolated, no friends, no opportunity to socialise with peers or take part in group activities. Since joining our programme they have become more physically active, more communicative, more confident and sociable. Working as a team, supporting and encouraging each other, we are seeing raised self esteem and independence, and behavioural issues are diminishing. We are seeing this in the groups as the service users gel, but more importantly, families and carers are seeing this too and are benefiting from a less stressful home life with far fewer behavioural problems.
Robert has had a place on our Recreation for almost 2 years. He had no services before he joined us, and no social contact with peers. He made friends and was keen to try everything, particularly enjoying outdoor activities. He became one of our peer mentors and a team leader. This year we have encouraged him to attend our employability groups, where he has participated in supported work experience projects at RSPB Kinross, in the grounds of Scone Palace and at Templeton Woods. He excelled at these. One of our coordinators supported him into a voluntary work placement which subsequently gave him the confidence to apply for a part time college place at college. He has been successful in securing a part time supported place, studying rural and estate skills, which he started mid October.
We want to hear how carers are using their time when we are offering them a break. We see success when we get feedback demonstrating that the carer is using their new found freedom productively to better their life circumstances and to pursue opportunities that they can gain fulfilment from.
While the young people they care for are engaged in Options In Life activities, carers know they have that regular time (for most it’s the ONLY time) each week to make their own plans, knowing that the people they care for are out enjoying themselves, having fun in a supported and safe environment. While most carers use their respite time to simply have time to themselves (one set of parents make a point of going out for a leisurely lunch together every week), 4 carers are now in part time employment, 5 carers have taken up volunteering positions with our own organisation, while others are volunteering with other organisations. Some parents meet up with friends and indeed, each other, 3 mothers have joined a gym together and another group of carers are now golfing together.
These are the carer’s own words. The young lady I look after is unable to access any kind of activity without support, as she can’t go out on her own. She relies on Options in Life to be able to meet people of her own age and abilities and enjoys the interaction with the others in her group. She loves the outings and although she isn’t confident about some things, she has begun to be a lot less afraid to try. Her speech has improved too, and she may be less reluctant to join in conversations. The outings with Options gives her the opportunity to make friends and do things which she never would have tried before. She has settled much better at home, knowing that, twice a week she has something to look forward to. Options in Life have made a huge difference to life at home, as the young lady I support has no other contact with other youngsters like herself. She comes home very happy and full of tales about her experiences. It give me time to myself, as she otherwise needs 24|7 care. I value this time so much, knowing that she is enjoying life with Options. The staff on the bus are fantastic with all the service users and my young lady is very happy to see them. I can’t praise them all enough!
Many carers who are referred to us are in a desperate need, struggling to cope with their situation. When those carers thank us for the work we are doing and tell us that they wouldn’t be able to manage if it wasn’t for our service, that’s when we know we are making a difference.
Through our family evenings we have established a network of carers who are supported by each other as well as by the organisation. Social groups have emerged and families are enjoying being part of a social circle where everyone understands and no one is judged. Our programmes aim to build the confidence of our service users by exposing them to new experiences and activities, stretching the boundaries and taking them out of their comfort zone. By learning to work as a team whether it’s in the kitchen during our independent cookery classes, where the young people work together to plan and prepare a meal, then sit down together to socialise and eat together, or it’s taking part in survival exercises, the young people are learning to communicate and respect each other. Skills are being transferred to life at home, where carers are reporting increased independence, a willingness to be involved in household tasks, and life at home being generally much less challenging.
In the words of a parent. Options in Life has transformed the life of our son, he looks forward to and gets very excited at the prospect of the weekly outings. He now has friends,(something he has never had ) which he looks forward to meeting every week. Before joining the group he self harmed and cried regularly this has now stopped and he appears to be very happy in life. Before Options In Life, there were activities that we believed would be beyond his abilities, with the help and support of both support staff and other service users our son has learned many new skills and can now enjoys a number of new activities,(Climbing, Canoeing , Bowling being a few examples). As for us ‘the carers’ and parents, knowing he is happy mixing with friends goes a long way to relieving our stresses which are indeed perpetual.
Additional project outcome
8 people received certificates for grounds maintenance skills, 7 for volunteering with RSPB, 10 gained certificates in ceramics, 11 attended a cycling and bike maintenance course, 8 earned John Muir Awards, 8 certificates from a Wildlife Centre for animal care, 6 gained elementary food hygiene certificate.
Mark as diagnosed with ADHD and Epilepsy at the age of four and has struggled with a number of learning and emotional difficulties throughout his young adult life. School was very difficult to cope with. He had no additional support and he was bullied. Despite these challenges, Mark always had hopes of going to college and he managed to get a place on a general skills course. Mark completed the course but found it impossible to find permanent supported employment. He did some volunteering but the project closed, and gradually he became very depressed. The turning point came when he was signposted to Options in Life’s employability programme. He has taken part in a wide range of our volunteering opportunities and work experience projects including time spent at Templeton Wood, for which he received a John Muir Award. Over time, his confidence has grown and he was recently offered the role as a peer mentor/buddy for the other young people. Mark’s goal is to find employment and the project has helped him to build new skills to add to his CV. One of his strengths is his ability to help others feel included, he motivates his peers to participate and supports newer people with activities that he has had experience doing, which makes everyone feel welcome.” He says Options In Life has changed his life, and for the first time, he feels like he is going places.