Growing Together-Community Gardening for Carers of Adults with Autism
A story by Pasda
We organised a social gardening group for carers of adults aged 16+ with Autism. The aim was to enable communication with others in a similar situation.
The increased communication would, hopefully reduce loneliness and social isolation and also increase confidence and development skills to help the young people feel empowered.
What Growing Together-Community Gardening for Carers of Adults with Autism did
A community gardener was employed one day a week. The Craigie’s Garden Group was advertised electronically on the website with weekly updates from the Support Worker via Facebook, email and hard copy Newsletter for those without internet access and face to face through meeting at other groups.
A Powerpoint presentation was delivered to some of the local PASDA Groups by the community garden support worker. Everyone at these meetings were given information about travel arrangements and the offer to be collected from the nearby train station. They were also offered recently harvested produce.
The garden group met every Thursday at Craigie’s Farm, under the umbrella of the Community Environmental and Education Partnership initiated by the Queensferry Rotatory Club. We usually started with a coffee and catch up with other members of the Community Environmental and Education Partnership to plan the activity for the day, then prepared for working on the outside vegetable plots, digging, raking, sieving compost or sowing/transplanting seeds in the poly tunnel.
Then a welcome break for lunch where we discussed the garden progress and plans for the following week, returning to the plots for more gardening and gathering produce for example potatoes, beetroot, broadbeans, tomatoes, sunflowers, herbs, potted plants to take home. The garden group participated in a post abseil fundraising event where they prepared a picnic lunch with produce from the garden, a plant sale at the Christmas Fayre, a trip to the local garden centre for winter planting advice and a day course at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh. There has also been plant swaps and exchange of cooking tips and recipes.
Although we were engaged in practical tasks such as digging, sowing and potting up plants, it was a quiet environment so we could engage in discussion about the challenges of the week for carers. This could be financial problems with benefits, carers health issues or our sons or daughters and their recent demands. As carers are away from their families it is an opportunity to discuss how to make progress without the need to explain every detail or justify why you cannot “just be firmer”.
The other carers in the group have been able to offer moral support and practical suggestions with who to contact for help with her son. Lucy is also always delighted with the produce she takes home as it is a great sense of achievement.
“I am so tired when I return home that it is the only time in the week I have a good night’s sleep”.
This allows her some respite and a feeling of being useful. It is also a relaxing social atmosphere to talk about other areas of life eg holidays, and not just the problems.
What Pasda has learnedWe have been able to offer a different kind of experience for carers that is not just talking but practical as well. The feeling of achievement when something grows is very satisfying. The challenges have been largely about time and commitment and not just location. The Bee Project was a disappointment this year as the weather was often too cloudy and the bees were not active.
We have made the service personalised by offering a clear report every week with all the results of the lovely vegetables, fruit and flowers we have grown. We have been in contact with many carers to offer support at the garden or veg boxes but they are lacking in self-esteem and cannot see a future. We also had a fun Sunday where we prepared food for a picnic and invited families to share in the refreshments and look round the garden. Many were able to take away sunflowers and vegetables and they were delighted.