2023 Summer Respite Holiday
A story by SAMs Charity
SAMs Charity ran a Summer Respite Holiday, which helped children/young people with disabilities/multiple ASN and their Parents/Carers better cope with both existing and new challenges created by the pandemic, reduced their isolation, and improved their wellbeing, resilience, and quality of life
What 2023 Summer Respite Holiday did
We ran a 5 day Summer Respite Holiday at the Drimsynie Caravan Park, which helped children/young people with disabilities/multiple ASN and their Parents/Carers better cope with the significant challenges they face and improved their wellbeing, resilience, relationships and support networks, and overall quality of life. Overall, the project supported 30 children/YP aged 3-18 with disabilities and/or multiple ASN, 5 siblings and 22 Parents/Carers.
We provided wide-range of activities each day for the children/YP supported incl., arts/crafts, teddy making, outdoor games,sand art, messy play, swimming with water walkers, tandem kayaking, boat trip, crazy golf, rainy day indoor games, etc. These activities were planned in partnership with the children/families supported prior to the event to best meet their interests/needs. We also set-up Soft Play and Sensory Spaces under a portable marquee using specially-adapted equipment and resources brought with us, enabling our volunteers to provided 1-to-1 sensory support for those with more profound disabilities/complex needs.
Whilst children/YP took part in day-time activities, Parents/Carers accessed 6-8 hours of much-needed respite each day, helping them better cope with the constant cycle of medication, time, financial costs, isolation, stress, and physical/emotional toll of providing 24/7 intensive care for their children. During this time Parents/Carers enjoyed time with their partners/peers, day trips, Parent Night Out, etc. To further help Parents de-stress, we also supported them to each access 3 different Spa Treatments incl., massages, reflexology, etc.
We also ran evening family events incl., family dance disco, Olympic Games, Pizza and Movie Night, ‘Got Talent’ Night, and Arcade Games Night during which families could simply have fun and positively engage – improving family relationships and creating new/stronger support networks to reduce their on-going isolation and improve mental health and resilience. We also provided some games in each caravan that further enabled families to positively engage away from the stress and everyday challenges faced at home, further strengthening family relationships.
What SAMs Charity has learned
This generous award enabled us to host another amazing Summer Respite Holiday at the Drimsynie Caravan Park in Lochgoilhead, where our 2 new Specially-Adapted Caravans are located, which enables each family to stay in their own individual caravan. We have found that providing this personalised accommodation massively boosts the overall impact of the holiday as it enables families to benefit from group activities whilst also enjoying their own personal family space at night. We’ve continued to provide a range of games, books, and arts/crafts in each caravan to further support individual family bonding outwith the family-wide activities provided to the overall group during each evening. The park is also only a relatively short drive away from the North East End community in which most of our clients reside, cutting down on transport time which improves the comfort of children supported, especially those that struggle to sit in a vehicle for a long period of time. It also means that we can transport more activity resources to the park’s location, including the resources we use to set up our Soft Play and Sensory Play stations, as well as enables us to provide more outdoor and on-site activities rather than requiring the groups to travel to different places each day for outings, maximising the overall activity time scheduled each day.
Although we did not have inclement weather during our 2022 annual Summer Respite Holiday provided at the caravan park, we did unfortunately have some rain this year (approx., 1.5 days light rain). Whilst the park’s location enables us to provide more outdoor and on-site activities, it has limited indoor space available for group activities which does, of course, present a problem during inclement weather. Luckily, we had planned ahead and brought with us a brand new, large and portable marquee which provided essential cover and helped extend the overall indoor/covered space we had available whilst it was raining. We simply would not have been able to provide this project without the continued support of the Better Breaks Fund which also helped us secure additional grants from other trusts and foundations: enhancing the overall support provided for vulnerable families impacted by childhood disabilities.
How SAMs Charity has benefitted from the funding
As a small volunteer-led charity, we are extremely grateful for the continued support of The Better Breaks Fund and would not be able otherwise provide this hugely successful and unique project. Your support has specifically enabled us to provide more places for vulnerable families as well as a wider range of free activities and support opportunities for both children/YP with disabilities/multiple ASN and their Parents/Carers. It’s also given us the flexibility to quickly adapt to the interest/needs of those supported and run alternative opportunities as needed. Given the financial disadvantages and other challenges experienced by the families we engage with, having access to a wide range of mainstream activities can be truly life-changing and has a significantly positive impact on their overall wellbeing and family relationships. This has had a significant impact on the charity’s overall aim of full inclusion for all children and well-tailored respite support to help their Parents/Carers continue coping with/carrying out their caring responsibilities. Whilst the overall Respite Holiday we provide is a significant expense, we feel that it represents great value for money in terms of the overall, lasting impact it has on the families supported and the immeasurable benefits they experience. Funding to run our annual Respite Holiday also gives our volunteers the opportunity to gain more experiences working with vulnerable children and families in different, unfamiliar settings: helping better prepare them for their own world of work, learning, and personal commitments especially for our younger volunteers who are still at college/university. In this way, the Project also provides immeasurable benefits for them as active citizens, making a significant contribution to the local community. In connection, individuals supporting SAMs Charity have progressed from simple volunteers to becoming qualified, full-time Carers in the Care Sector following their positive experience supporting/working with the children/young people we engage with. Thank you once again for this very kind support of work. In addition to helping cover the project’s overall costs, your support also helps us secure additional grants from other trusts and foundations, therefore further enhancing the overall support we could provide this and each year.
30 children/YP with disabilities/multiple ASN will have taken part in a Respite Holiday during which they’ll have engaged in interactive games, inclusive sports, 1-to-1 sensory, and day trips previously inaccessible. As a result, children/YP will feel less isolated and more positive/resilient
30 children/YP with disabilities/multiple ASN and 5 x able-bodied children were supported to access a fun Summer Respite Holiday during which they engaged in many activities incl., outdoor games, indoor activities/crafts, sensory play, swimming, crazy golf, tandem kayaking, etc. By engaging in these activities, exploring/taking on new challenges independently, and receiving positive confirmations from peers/volunteers, children with disabilities/multiple ASN gained/improved their independence, developed practical skills via play incl., social/communication, teamwork, and fair play; and gained confidence/ positive self-esteem. Most importantly, the holiday enabled children that experience significant isolation/exclusion in the wider community to relax, simply be themselves, have fun, and build strong peer networks: helping them feel less isolated and more resilient.
The respite holiday enabled children to take part in a wide range of fun activities via which they could have fun, simply be themselves, build improved independence and friendships/networks, and more, all of which helped to improve their overall health, wellbeing and quality of life. This included arts/crafts, teddy making, outdoor games, sand art, messy play, swimming with water walkers, tandem kayaking, a boat trip, crazy golf, arcade games, Olympic games event, and rainy day indoor games that children were able to access for the first time in their lives and which they truly enjoyed. “The holiday was just brilliant - It was so amazing seeing the children so happy and full of joy all the time and our two had a blast doing all the fun activities provided.” “My kids loved it from start to finish, we hardly seen them from day to day as they were out every day doing loads of fun activities but they were so excited to tell me all about them at the end of each day plus they loved all the yummy food and ice creams each day.” Case Study: Charlie is 9 years old and has severe autism, learning disabilities, and significant medical conditions that impact his day-to-day life and has resulted in him being in and out of the hospital for the past 2+ years. Charlie can become overwhelmed, upset, and even aggressive when things are noisy and crowded in groups and, as a result, his mother was very nervous about joining our year-round group activities. However, Charlie’s mother was thrilled to see how much care and 1-to-1 support our volunteer Helpers provided Charlie during our club activities, helping him to adapt, better cope with changes, new environments, and loud noises, and positively engage with his peers and so, despite worrying about how he would cope in the caravan parks’ entirely new environment, especially considering how long they would be apart and engaging in their own independent activities, decided to take up the offer of coming along on our Summer Respite Holiday. As we do with all of the children we support that struggle with new environments, Charlie’s 1-to-1 volunteer Helper took him for a one-on-one walk first thing on day 1 to help familiarise him with the area and to get to chat/play with him in our sensory space away from the larger group to help him feel more comfortable and relaxed. Although he did struggle slightly on the first day, Charlie’s mum P was absolutely thrilled to see how quickly he adapted and how well his volunteer Helper was able to use her specialised training to help resolve potential problems before they could arise, including organising several short-term ‘quiet’ times in our sensory space during day-time activities that helped prevent Charlie from becoming overwhelmed and over-stimulated, ensuring that he stayed relaxed, positive, and didn’t have a meltdown during the holiday. This was the very first time that P was able to take Charlie and his brother on a family holiday, providing a unique opportunity for them to get away from the day-to-day stress and challenges experienced at home, engage in a wide range of activities that would otherwise be inaccessible because of Charlie’s significant needs and the family’s financial disadvantage but which supported the children’s overall inclusion, development, and wellbeing, and build stronger family relationships and support networks. Charlie especially loved the water activities, specifically swimming, tandem kayaking, and the boat trip as well as crazy golf and the arcade games night. He also really bonded with a 10 year-old boy that he had previously hung out with during a few club sessions but the respite holiday gave them an opportunity to spend a lot more time together and P has said that they’ve since had on-going play dates and have become very close friends over the past 3+months, which she is so pleased with as Charlie otherwise struggles to make friends, helping support his overall social inclusion and longer-term wellbeing. We’ve seen a similar trend throughout the wider groups we’ve supported via our Summer Respite Holiday, providing evidence on how the Summer Respite Holiday supports the longer-term wellbeing of both children and their Parents/Carer. P said: “This has truly been an amazing experience. I can’t believe how wonderful and supportive the helpers are and they’ve really helped Charlie adapt and come out of his shell more. Both he and Andrew have made new friends and had so much fun with all the different activities. We’ve never had a holiday before and I’m just so so thankful to SAMs for giving us this wonderful opportunity – it’s really made a big difference to us in so many different ways!!”
25 Parents/Carers will have taken part in a Respite Holiday during which they’ll receive much-needed respite, spend time with their partner/peers, and build new friendships via engaging in previously-inaccessible parent-only activities, helping them feel less isolated and more positive
22 x Parents/Carers of children with disabilities/multiple ASN benefitted from our Summer Respite Holiday. SAMs provided children-only activities/outings each day, giving Parents/Carers approx., 6-8 hours of respite per day to de-stress, relax, spent time with parents/peers and access spa treatments covered by SAMs. These opportunities/activities are a vital aspect of our Summer Respite Holiday and helped Parents/Carers feel less stressed/hopeless, stronger and more able to cope with their caring responsibilities,and build positive friendships/support networks with peers. Helping Parents/Carers de-stress and feel more supported, in turn, helped to further improve family relationships and wellbeing.
Testimonial from mum A who engaged in the Summer Respite Holiday with her husband and their 2 children, both of whom have disabilities/multiple ASN. “This has been the most brilliant experience and so much more than me and Ian could have ever hoped for. It’s been so amazing to see how happy the kids have been and they’ve loved all of the activities. I know that M* in particular has a lot of challenges but his Helper has just been amazing and so committed to helping him have the best time ever. It was just so great to see both the boys have fun and actually engage with their peers and make new friends and they were both so excited to tell us about their adventures at the end of each day. Knowing they were happy and well looked after let me and Ian truly relax and enjoy our alone time and the adult activities and honestly, the Parent Night Out is the first time in a very long time that we’ve been able to dress up and socialise with other adults. The spa treatments were also brilliant – I usually feel so stressed and full of anxiety and my mind is constantly busy but I genuinely felt calmer and more positive after the treatments plus it was interesting to learn about mindfulness. I had heard about it before but didn’t think it was for me; however, it’s a lot easier to do the little techniques they taught us than I initially assumed. All in all, we had the most amazing time and we really can’t thank you and the Helpers enough for giving us this brilliant experience; it truly has been one-of-a-kind.”
25 Parents/Carers will have taken part in a Respite Holiday during which they’ll receive much-needed respite, spend time with their partner/peers, and engage in previously-inaccessible parent-only activities: helping Parents/Carers feel less stressed and better able to manage/cope with their caring
22 x Parents/Carers of children with disabilities/multiple ASN benefitted from our Summer Respite Holiday. SAMs provided children-only activities/outings each day, giving Parents/Carers approx., 6-8 hours of respite per day to de-stress, relax, spend time with their partners and peers in adult-only activities as well as receive wellness treatments. These opportunities/activities are a vital aspect of our Respite Holiday and helped Parents/Carers feel less stressed and hopeless, stronger and more able to cope with their caring responsibilities, and build stronger friendships and support networks with peers. Helping Parents/Carers de-stress and feel more supported, in turn, helped to further improve family relationships and wellbeing.
In a follow-up evaluation, Parent A recently advised that she had, to even her own surprised, continued to incorporate the simple mindfulness techniques that were taught as part of the pamper and wellness treatments into her daily routine and that “I do actually think they’ve made a positive difference to my overall mental health over the past couple of months; at least, they’ve helped me feel less overwhelmed and more recharged. So much else has changed since the holiday too, we’ve really become closer to 2 of the families that were on the trip and Ian and L’s husband hang out all the time and have even arranged lots of ‘boys only’ activities with our kids, who have become so much more open and social. These special times have really been a blessing as the boys, Ian, and L’s husband have become a lot closer plus it lets me and L catch up and go into town together. We just feel so much more open and happy as a family. The trip is really like the gift that keeps on giving and we’ve continued to benefit from it. Thank you so much again for everything that you do for our kids and us.” “I really feel so much more supported and like I’ve found a second family that I can turn to for advice, support, to laugh with, or even just to have a moan. Although I’d met some of the other parents before, I feel like the break helped us to really bond and become close and their support has really boosted my mental health and even helped me be a better parent and partner. It might sound silly but I just feel so much stronger in myself and really can’t thank you enough for the many opportunities you’ve given to me and my children.”
30 children/YP with disabilities/multiple ASN and 25 Parents/Carers will have taken part in a Respite Holiday during which they’ll engage in positive activities outwith their community, develop new friends/support networks and skills, and feel more supported: improving their resilience and wellbeing
Our Respite Holiday enabled 30 children/YP with disabilities/multiple ASN and 22 Parents/Carers to engage in fun, inclusive activities that are typically inaccessible due to their support needs and financial disadvantages, offering unique chances for families to relax, have fun, and enjoy each other away from the day-to-day stress/pressure/responsibilities at home: helping families feel happier, more positive about their future, and build improved family relationships. 5 able-boded siblings also took part, offering unique chances for able-bodied and disabled children to engage in fun, integrated activities: strengthening bonds between siblings and improving their attitude towards each disabled child, e.g., reducing jealousy/frustration possible felt due to all attention being on the disabled sibling(s). This together with the family-wide activities offered each evening helped improve inter-family relationships and enhance the support structure for each disabled child.
“We can’t believe how much fun our kids had, making new friends and being included in everything. As parents we got to enjoy breaks every day whilst still being part of key activities, even if it did mean being soaked during the Sports Day – such great fun! James loved the caravan and the outside space with all the toys and games just outside for him to play with. He truly loved everything, especially making new friends. Cannot thank the volunteers enough for all they did. What an amazing group of young people who gave up their time for us. Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for this amazing trip!” “We had an absolute ball this week. My boy loved all the activities and getting time for ourselves was a real treat. Loved the respite time, the massages, the smiles on all the kids faces every day, the way the volunteers did so much for us, the safe spaces around the caravans, the chilled areas like the cinema for popcorn and a movie, the walks, the silly sports day. It was so much fun from start to finish. I don’t know how the volunteers do it but they made everything work so well and the kids had the best time ever. Brilliant, just amazing.” “What an incredible break! Cannot thank SAMs enough for all that they do for us. They are special, special people. Thank you so much for giving us this amazing experience!” Case Study: J*, JJ*, and their parents S* and A* first joined our group a few months before the Summer Respite Holiday. J is 8, highly autistic and has sensory impairments whilst his brother JJ is 6 and has ADHD and learning disabilities. Whilst the family had previously attempted to go on a family holiday once, this ended in disaster and the family went home early as J could not cope with the new environment, changes, and noise/crowd. Because of this, the boys’ parents had essentially given up on having a family break prior to joining our group and therefore were, like many, initially nervous about coming along on the Summer Respite Holiday when we invited them; however they decided to take a chance and join us both because they had become very confident in our ability to work with their children, and J in particular had become very close with his volunteer Helper, and because the parents were in desperate need of a respite break as, in addition to their caring responsibilities. S had recently lost both of her parents and A had a health problem that caused him to be hospitalised for a couple of months, leaving them stressed out, depressed, and completely drained. Although J had a very difficult start on day 1 and had a meltdown almost immediately upon arrival to the park, his Helper was able to set in place a care strategy that we had developed prior to the holiday, which help him relax, better cope with and become more comfortable within the new environment, choose and become familiar with activities before they started, and enabled the Helper to resolve issues before they could arise. As a result, J and JJ were able to adapt and positively engaged in a wide range of fun activities with their peers, although J’s Helper incorporated several brief ‘quiet time’ breaks in both the sensory room and their own caravan during each daily schedule so help prevent him from becoming overwhelmed/overstimulated. The structure of the group activities also enabled their parents to check in on them during the day, especially during the activity transition periods, whenever they felt necessary. Though they did this a couple of times on day 1 and twice on the morning of day 2 to check up on in particular, seeing how well the boys were doing enabled their parents to truly take advantage and maximise the respite given. They in particular enjoyed chatting with and sharing their experiences with other parents and felt that this had given them “a lot of new tips and strategies to try at home.” They both, like many other parents, also especially loved the pamper and wellness treatments we provided for each parent/carer, with these helping them to de-stress, feel restored and recharged, and experience a significant boost to their overall mental health and wellbeing. The family also really enjoyed the Olympic Games and Pizza and a Movie family activities provided, with A noting that our family activities helped them feel closer to their boys again and not just solely focused on the carer/cared-for relationship roles. Overall the family had a wonderful break and each family member gave us positive feedback regarding the holiday’s set-up and focus on integration, the type and range of activities provided, the significant support given by our volunteer Helpers, and the positive outcomes they experienced as a result of this unique project for families affected by significant childhood disabilities.