Family Fun Days
A story by ENABLE Scotland
The Family Fun Days project provided opportunities for families with a young child with learning disabilities to have fun together and enjoy the benefits of their local community green space areas.
What Family Fun Days did
The Family Fun Days Project delivered 6 sessions at various locations throughout Fife. 2 sessions were delivered per area in East, Central and West Fife. This made the project as accessible as possible and minimised barriers such as travel issues. The green spaces used were Letham Glen, Ravenscraig Park, Lochore Meadows and Pittencreiff Park. These green spaces were chosen as the two other ENABLE projects supporting young families reported considerable need in these particular areas.
The project manager utilised the services of these two other projects as “feeders” so most of the children attending the project days were referred from these projects. The project was also advertised externally with flyers sent out to Social Work, Other Local Disability Charities/Projects etc. Once the interest was generated the Project Manager prioritised through need and location as to who would attend each event. Once the decision was made, calls were made to the families/parent/carers to provide details of the event, time, and location.
On the day families were welcomed and invited over to the activity area where after completing the relevant forms (attendance records, equal opportunities, photo consents, etc.) they commenced various planned activities. The activities included sensory play with water and bubbles, bug hunting, catching butterflies with nets to examine them, painting and seasonal related games and activities including making snowmen at Christmas out of eco craft materials, scavenger hunts and bird feeders from pine cones and pipe cleaners.
The by-product of the days was that families all engaged in the activities together and the parents/carers engaged with their peers to discuss individual situations, instilling hope and confidence that they were not alone. After each session families completed an evaluation questionnaire.
Mum initially thought J’s behaviour was due to just having a disruptive nature, however through time she was convinced otherwise and obtained a diagnosis. Since that point she has been supported by the other ENABLE projects in Fife and was also referred to this project. At the Family Fun Days session her son came out of his shell after a small amount of coaxing and Mum started to engage with other parents/carers. She discovered that there were other parents/carers in attendance that had children with similar or even in some instances, more complex issues and that she could relate to their struggles.
Since then she has met several parents for a coffee and has connected with them via social media. She now feels more supported by her peers to sustain her caring role for her son.
K and J attended a recent Family Fun Day and at the start they were both very reserved. However as the day went on Mum and J started to interact with staff and families. Mum talked about her experiences and feelings about being out of the house and spending time with her daughter in the community. She thought there were very few opportunities/activities suitable for her daughter in the community and certainly nothing that she had found that was as good as the Family Fun Day event.
The project manager told her about other activities that might be fun based on her daughter’s interests and about what local support is available. Mum said she was starting to feel more confident that she was not alone and there were activities available that were suitable for her daughter. She realised that by gaining more confidence with help from people in the same situations, she and her daughter would be able to attend events and activities. These activities would enrich J’s life and allow her to grow and develop her social skills.
This was a great result and was a talking point for the parents/carers in the group. By the end of the session they had forged new friendships. They have since met out with the project. From follow up feedback forms and phone calls, the project manager has learned from Mum that she continues to use the strategies learnt on the Family Fun day and is having a great deal of success. She has more time for herself to socialize with friends, attend events and get to know herself again as an individual rather than just “Mum”.
This has been achieved because of these new techniques and having the confidence to leave J with relatives, trained in these new techniques knowing they work. It’s an important product of the days that these parents/carers are able to “find themselves” again after so long being just “mum” or “dad”. It allows them to grow both individually and as a family.
What ENABLE Scotland has learnedThe Family Fun Days Project has been a valuable resource for these families, getting them out into the community and interacting with the elements, whilst teaching valuable skills and play ideas that can be utilized at a later date on their own time. We have realised that this project has allowed the parents to feel more confident in their caring and parenting abilities. Each Family Fun Day was attended by children with a range of abilities and interests. To make the Family Fun Days Project more personalised, we learned it was important to offer a broad variety of activities.
We always gave the families plenty of notice about upcoming Family Fun Days so they had time to organise their plans for the day. At a couple of sessions, a few families did not attend. We realised then, that it was also important to send reminders about the Family Fun Days as these families had simply forgotten the date!
In Fife a major emphasis of ENABLE’s work is to support families awaiting a diagnosis or who have just received a diagnosis of a learning disability. Our Big Lottery funded project, the Enable U Family Support Project enables families to understand and manage the impact of their child's disability through the provision of key approaches to build the individual child and family unit's resilience and realise their individual and collective potential beyond disability.