Autism Initiatives Activity Break Project
A story by Autism Initiatives Scotland
A programme of residential short breaks for groups of young adults with a diagnosis of autism who do not access short break services as part of their regular support.
Primary elements of the residential short breaks we offered were to provide essential respite to parents/carers as well as giving the opportunity to participants to engage in new activities and learn new skills in a new environment.
What Autism Initiatives Activity Break Project did
We have not had to recruit additional staff and we have not recruited volunteers for this project. We promoted and advertised the activity breaks that we were offering through our monthly newsletters and websites across the three One Stop Shops ran by Autism Initiatives in Edinburgh, Perth and Inverness.
Due to the high demand we experienced, we further looked at individual circumstances in each case and allocated places to individuals where we felt that the most benefit would be gained by both the individual attending the activity break as well as the respite offered to the parent/carers. We offered four 2 night/3 day breaks throughout the period April 2014 to April 2015. Each of the trips were located at the Cromdale Centre based in Cromdale near Grantown on Spey.
Prior to each trip we supported and encouraged our participants to suggest activities that they would like to engage in whilst away from home. The range of activities that our participants engaged in were Kayaking, Hill-Walking, Mountain Biking, Archery, Zip Lining. In addition to this, our staff team also focused heavily on supporting the participants' development of social skills, problem solving skills and making choices.
Feedback from parents/carers has been very complimentary and much of the feedback we have had with respect to the breaks has focused around their ability to relax knowing that their son or daughter was away from home in a supported environment. For many of the parents/carers involved this was the first time that they have been able to relax and do things they want to do, at their own pace, without having to think about their son or daughter.
Some parents said that they went out for a meal together, or went to the cinema, others said that they simply stayed at home and enjoyed being not required to strictly adhere to their son or daughter's routine.
What Autism Initiatives Scotland has learned
We have learned a lot more about the direct impact in respect of what we do with our group participants and the dynamic between parents/carers and their son/daughter. I think we also have a greater collective understanding regarding the benefit that respite gives to parents/carers and the impact on sustainability of their caring role.
For us as a service provider to people with a diagnosis of Autism, being able to provide activity weekends over the course of the last two years has been fantastic. Seeing the real benefit to participants and their parents/carers has not only been rewarding, but also given us a more determined focus to also think about what other areas of our daily work we could incorporate/improve the respite element of our support.
One of our main challenges we faced was that we were over subscribed in terms of the number of participants that met the criteria wishing to take part in the activity breaks. Part of this was down to the success of the activity breaks in 2013-2014, however through discussion with our partner one stop shops in Perth and Inverness, we took a proactive approach in identifying and promoting the breaks in 2014-2015 to people known to our services, but who perhaps were not accessing a service on a regular basis and those less likely to ask for support.
Through this process, again we have become more focused on a daily basis on reaching out to those who do not access our service on a regular basis.