Aberlour Options Adventures
A story by Aberlour Childcare Trust
Options Adventures gives young people with complex needs and disabilities the opportunity to participate in activities they otherwise would not be able to access and experience. It allows them to interact with their peer group whilst giving parents/carers respite from their caring roles.
What Aberlour Options Adventures did
The Adventures service delivered eleven day adventures and five residential weekends during April 2022 and March 2023, due to demand these exceeded the numbers originally planned. The young people all have a range of needs and disabilities and the service has been able to offer beneficiaries valuable respite to allow them to spend time to relax and with siblings and families.The young people have participated in a wide range of activities during these adventures - these have included canoeing on Lake Bassenthwaite,Kielder Water and the River Tweed, Kayaking, Archery, Climbing Walls, Zip Wire Rollercoaster, Swimming, Bushcraft, King Swings along with more sedate activities including a trip to the theatre to see The Lion King and a Christmas pantomime, a sail on a canal boat to see Santa, visit to the Safari Park and a trip on a steam train. The residential adventures have visited the Lake District, Northumberland and Dumfriesshire whilst the day adventures have been to Kielder Water, Paxton House, Bo'ness Railway, Seagull Trust Ratho,Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpie, Edinburgh Playhouse, Blair Drummond Safari Park, Rock Uk and Alnwick Gardens.During 2022 a 'taster' self-catering residential took place in November, this allowed 4 young people to be away from home and participate in different activities as well as developing life skills, confidence and interaction with peers.The weekend was very successful with all the young people coming back for more residential and day adventures in 2023.
Staff have also been supporting a young girl who suffers from mental health problems taking her horse riding every fortnight to allow her parents some respite from a very stressful home life giving them time to themselves.
There was only one adventure day that had to be changed at the last minute due to Coronavirus.
A small staff team has been formed which has a positive impact on the young people and their families, as they recognise the staff and are forming good relationships with them.
On reflection being able to build on the Adventures service has been beneficial to all the young people and their families, especially when respite is becoming more difficult to access.
What Aberlour Childcare Trust has learned
With the closure of day centres and the shortage of carers over the last year, families are looking for other forms of respite. This has been highlighted with the larger number of enquiries to the Adventures service and being able to provide this service to support these parents and carers has been very rewarding. The coordinator has continued to build on previous partnerships to continue collaborative working with outside agencies and has met with new groups and visited new venues which allows the young people a wider choice of activities. The challenges of the pandemic remain with numbers still having to be considered, especially for those young people who have severe and complex needs. Self-catering weekends have continued to be a great success as these give the young people so many more opportunities to gain life skills, independence and confidence whilst facing some new challenges in their lives.
How Aberlour Childcare Trust has benefitted from the funding
The funding from Better Breaks has allowed the adventures service the opportunity to build on their reputation, being able to offer respite to a larger number of families during more difficult times. We were able to offer a more bespoke service to some of the families in times of crisis by taking young people out in smaller groups or individually, this not only allowed families valuable respite time but expanded the service to offer different types of adventure days often focusing on the young person’s preferences and abilities. The funding has also allowed the service to offer ‘taster’ days, these give young people who are transitioning from childrens to adult services a ‘free’ day where they can participate in activities, interact with their peer group and have fun. Staff continue to gain knowledge about new venues and facilities, new activities and facing new challenges themselves all help to promote the service we offer.
Building the Adventures service will allow more children and young people access to a number of different experiences they would otherwise not be able to participate in. We will provide a wide range of activities for the children and young people to participate in and enjoy whilst making friends.
The service delivered five two night residential breaks and eleven day adventures. These were evaluated through conversations with the young people and their parents/carers, using photographs, Talking Mats, Facebook and quotes from parents. It is important for the young people and their parents/carers to have a voice for planning future adventures
H is a fourteen year old girl who is non-verbal and has a development delay. Mum originally contacted the Options Borders service to ask for respite for H, however, due to this service being full, I contacted Mum to ask if H would like to come along on an adventure as one was planned for the required date. Mum was delighted this could be arranged. H was very happy to come along and as she recognised staff members settled quickly. She was happy to see some of her peer group who she knew when they boarded the bus, indicating to one of them to sit on the seat opposite. H was very excited when we arrived at Whithaugh for the day's activities. H was very apprehensive about putting on a life-jacket and helmet, but with some reassurance from staff and instructors she put these on and headed to the jetty. Again H showed some apprehension about climbing into the canoe, however, once she realised it was just a small step down, she climbed in and chose what seat she wanted to sit on, moving confidently to get there. H was happy to take a paddle and helped move the canoe away from the jetty. She smiled and giggled all the time whilst we were out on the water. H enjoyed her picnic lunch once back on dry land and was very excited when she learnt we were going to be participating in another activity – archery. H was able to hold the bow and required only minimal assistance to load the arrow and pull the string. H clapped her hands when the arrow hit the target, pointing at the target and making happy vocalisations. H took turns well at this activity, becoming more excited each time the arrow hit the target. H indicated to staff she was ‘sad’ to be leaving the activity, but cheered up when staff told her she was going home to Mum. H was so happy to see Mum when we arrived home, clapping her hands and smiling when staff told Mum what H had been doing. Mum was absolutely delighted the day was so successful and thanked staff for taking H along. Mum was very appreciative of the respite and had been able to attend a local festival with H’s brother, who had a major role in the festivities, and had attended a lunch with parents of the other schoolchildren who were also part of the festival, something she could never have done if H had been there.
It is hoped six new parents/carers will join the existing families to enable them to have respite from their caring roles during 2022/23, therefore they will be able to use this time to enjoy a break from caring and spend time with other family members. It will allow parents/carers to 'recharge'
Due to the demand for respite for young people starting the transition into adult services, the Adventures service has provided respite for parents/carers from 8 new families. All the families whose young people have participated in Adventures have given very positive feedback and have asked they be included in future Adventures.
B is a fifteen year old boy who is verbal, although his speech is limited. He is diagnosed with Reynaud’s Syndrome and Global Development Delay. B’s Social Worker contacted the Adventures service to ask if he could come along for some respite for Mum as she and B’s Dad had recently separated a situation which Mum was finding challenging, especially as she was caring for B. It was agreed that B would come along to the Christmas Pantomime at another local town. B was very excited when we arrived to collect him and very quickly boarded the minibus, pointing out to staff it was dark. As staff and other young people were familiar to B he was happy and relaxed during the journey. On arrival at the venue B became a little apprehensive due to the number of people who were around him at the entrance. B was reassured by staff that it would only be a few minutes until we found our seats. Once seated B was enthralled looking at everything around him. Once the performance started B was mesmerised with the singing and dancing, clapping his hands and calling out when audience participation was required. B smiled throughout the performance and was very excited when Santa appeared on stage. At the end of the evening B was so happy he laughed and smiled when staff chatted to him about the pantomime during the journey home. B was still smiling when he arrived home, Mum came out to meet us and was so appreciative of the respite time, telling staff she had managed to meet with some friends and get some Christmas presents wrapped and had really enjoyed her ‘me time’ during the evening. Mum contacted staff the following day saying “Thank you for taking B to the pantomime, he had a great time and is so happy today. I can’t thank you enough”.
The children and young people who attend adventures will gain life skills which will help their parents/carers cope in their caring role. This could be in a range of ways – self care, confidence, gaining independence and basic life skills giving parents/carers confidence in trying new experiences.
The young people who come along on Adventures are encouraged and supported to become more independent, overcome anxiety and gain confidence, especially when they are in new surroundings and participating in new and different activities. Basic life skills, including good hygiene, and peer interaction are encouraged. We evaluate feedback from young people, parents/carers and build on this to ensure we are continuing to provide the best level of service to meet the needs of the family.
P is a seventeen year old boy who has a learning disability. He does not attend school and spends most of his time with Mum and his siblings. P is mostly independent but does need reminding about his personal hygiene, which Mum has reported is often lacking at home despite him being reminded regularly. When collecting P Mum asked staff if they could remind P to wash whilst he was with us for the weekend. On arriving at the venue P happily unpacked his bags and put his clothes away, he chatted to staff about his new trainers which were a bright colour and he had chosen them himself. P was settled and relaxed throughout meal time and afterwards in the games room, enjoying a game of pool and table football with some good peer interaction. As we made our way back to our rooms, staff reminded all the young people about the importance of washing, showering and cleaning their teeth before bed. P went off to his room, coming back into the corridor only a few minutes later telling staff he was going to bed. It was obvious to staff P had not washed, showered or brushed his teeth, although he was adamant he had done. Staff went with P back to his room and calmly chatted to him about hygiene, explaining that he didn’t have to shower tonight but a wash and his teeth brushed were very important and he could have a shower in the morning if that was what he preferred. P agreed to have a shower in the morning, telling staff “I’ll smell if I don’t wash” P had a wash and brushed his teeth before going off to bed. In the morning P asked staff if they could help him with his shower, staff reassured P and asked what help he needed P told them he wasn't sure how to switch the shower on and didn't want it to be too hot. Staff encouraged P to have a good wash, after which he brushed his teeth and dressed independently. P had a good day participating in a variety of activities before going for a swim in the evening. P was happy to have a shower after his swim and needed no reminding that he had to brush his teeth before bed. The following morning P again asked staff for some help with his shower, he washed himself well and cleaned his teeth all ready for the day ahead. P asked staff if they could tell Mum he had showered as she would be pleased to hear this, On returning home staff reported to Mum P had showered and brushed his teeth, also explaining to Mum that he did ask for a little help with the shower, suggesting to Mum she could possibly switch it on and set the temperature for him as this was where he needed the help. Mum told staff she had never thought about him needing help to switch the shower on or set the temperature and this could be why he was avoiding the shower. At his next adventure P was really happy to tell staff he was showering every day now and chose his own shower gel so he could smell nice. Mum intimated to staff it was much easier now the problem of the shower had been resolved and thanked staff for their help and input into what used to be a ‘bit of an issue’ in their house.
A larger number of new parents/carers being able to access the adventures service who along with existing parents/carers will enjoy respite from their caring role. A day adventures gives parents/carers a minimum of 8 hours respite time which will improve their physical and mental wellbeing.
As a result of many services being closed down due to either the Coronavirus pandemic or staff shortages, parents/carers are looking to other services for respite. The Adventures service has been able to help by offering parents/carers both day and residential respite and has ran 11 day adventures and 5 residential adventures, surpassing the expected number due to the higher demand from parents/carers.
B is a 17 year old boy who has Global Development Delay, he is verbal, has a limited vocabulary and often uses PECS to make his needs known. B has a younger brother who also suffers from Global Development Delay, the family have moved due to a change in Dad’s work. The boys were both in Monday to Friday residential school where they lived previously but since they moved have only attended school during the day. Mum contacted the Adventures service to enquire if it would be suitable for B as he was the more challenging of the two. Staff met with Mum and it was agreed that B would be taken along on a day adventure. Arrangements were made to meet B before we confirmed a date for the adventure. The next day adventure was a sail on a canal boat and it was agreed that this would be a good day for B to come along. On the day of the adventure B was very excited to be coming with us, Mum saying he had been up very early to get ready. B happily climbed onto the bus and chose his seat, he settled quickly, asking staff their names and telling them he was going on a boat. B travelled well to the destination and was really excited when he spied the barge. B needed a little help climbing aboard the barge but once in the cabin chose his seat and waited until we moved off. Along the canal there are figures from well-known children’s television and B was able to tell staff who some of these characters were. He loved his time on the canal boat and was really pleased when he was asked if he wanted to go and help steer the boat. B went up to the deck and put on the Captain’s hat, he helped steer the boat using the ships wheel being so happy when doing this. B was happy to allow other young people to have their turn before he went back to the cabin. B told staff “I drove the boat, tell Mum”. Staff reassured B that they would tell Mum when he went back home. B enjoyed his picnic lunch interacting well with both staff and other young people. B settled back into the bus for the journey home, arriving back B jumped out the bus to tell Mum about his day driving the boat. Staff told Mum he had been really good and had interacted well with the other young people and staff. Mum reported to staff she and Dad had been able to go and choose some furniture for their new home and have a lovely long, relaxing lunch which they both really appreciated, “re-charging their batteries”. Since B came along for the day he has been on several other adventure days and is coming along for a residential weekend in the very near future.