A story by Parents Inclusion Network
During school holiday periods we provided Family Day activities for disabled children, young people and their families, which promotes access and inclusion to a range of local sport and leisure activities that they would not have otherwise be able to access.
What Family Days did
Our region wide Family Days are proving increasingly popular with families as a way of them being able to meet new people in a similar situation which feels safe and non-judgemental. We meet every new parent and as part of the information we share we tell families about the Family Days. We also designed and published a new Parents Inclusion Network leaflet which features pictures of our children and parents having fun during Family Days.
We let families know about what is planned through our regular newsletters; our website and Facebook page. We ensure equality of provision for some families who are particularly isolated by extending a personal invitation to them when we know there is an activity planned which their child will particularly enjoy or benefit from.
During the Easter holiday period 2016 we delivered 7 activities for parents and children, two relaxed cinema sessions in different parts of the region, a day at Mossburn Community Farm, a day at Cream of Galloway, an indoor/outdoor play/activity centre. An Easter egg hunt for the whole family, two taster sessions in different parts of the region for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder to coincide with Autism Week so that families could sample local clubs/hobbies/activities.
During the school summer holiday period 2016 we delivered 16 activities for parents and children region wide. Some of these were ‘core’ activities which parents, children and young people continue to request because they are accessible, predictable (for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder), safe and fun. We introduced a few new activities which enable families to try things out within a safe environment in the hope that they will continue to use these new, local resources.
These were two days at Mossburn Community Farm, a day at a play/activity centre, two days at Mabie Farm Park an accessible outdoor play centre. A day fishing at Green Frog a new resource introduced to families, a Fun Day at the local leisure facility trying out Archery, laser quest ,Bocca and a bike circuit using accessible bikes for children who have mobility problems and a day with ‘Let’s Get Sporty’ another new activity providing sport and physical activity for the whole family.
M's concerns about venturing from his parents was clearly evidence by M sitting with his parents and being unable to explore the environment or reach out to other children. Staff took the time to engage with M and introduced him to two brothers with Learning Disabilities and slightly older than M whom the staff member knew would be supportive and caring towards M. This helped M to feel it was safe to move away from his parents to be able to enjoy playing and exploring with the brothers.
M’s parents now find it easier to encourage him out of bed and out of the house during school holidays when PIN activities are on because he knows he will feel safe, less stressed and have fun with new friends. The children now look out for each other at PIN events.
One dad is separated from his partner and used Family Days on contact days so that he is able to do something which he knows his son enjoys and where he does not have to deal with comments about his child from the general public.
In Newton Stewart we had a volunteer who supported the coordinator throughout the holidays, she played a very valuable role which enabled a family to stay and take part in a session. This was the first time this family had attended any of our holiday activities. Mum was very anxious about coming along as she had always felt judged in the past. She has three children, two of which are on the Autistic Spectrum one who is 13, very verbal, and one 7 who is on the severe end of the spectrum with little verbal communication.
The volunteer sat in a quiet part of the room trying to engage and chat with the 13 year old who felt she was too old to be at the session, however once the volunteer realised she was obsessed with Scotland and everything Scottish the volunteer used that information to engage allowing mum to play with her 7 year old and chat to other parents. By the end of the session, mum was much more relaxed chatting to parents. When they were all leaving the 13 year old asked if it was okay if she could come back to another activity.
This allowed the parent to become more confidant with the support Parents Inclusion Network could offer. The parent then came along to a Child’s Planning training session which was organised by the coordinator in her area so in turn gave the parent the confidence to voice her opinion at their next Child’s Plan Meeting and positive changes were made.
What Parents Inclusion Network has learnedWe have focused this year on improving our communications with families around the activities programme. We have regular e-newsletters and a new business Facebook page where all our events are now advertised. We also communicate directly with new families or families we are aware do not make use of technology, to ensure they are given the opportunity to attend events. All new families now receive home visits and are encouraged personally to come to our events.
Due to the ever increasing numbers of members, we have initiated a new booking system for events. This system allows us to manage the increased numbers for events and also to collect all the relevant information about participation across our activity schedule.
Focusing on more local small scale events in the West of the region increased our participation in that area. We will now roll this model out across the region, to increase participation and reduce travel for families. It also enables them to make contacts in their own local area and to become much more aware of activities they could try out with Parents Inclusion Network days.