In My Hands - Play Scheme Project
A story by Cosgrove Care
We delivered a play scheme for children with multiple support needs over 5 days a week for 6 weeks during the 2013 school interval periods. We also offered special activity days for siblings and young people with learning disabilities during the summer school Interval.
Activities included: arts and crafts, baking, drama, dance and music workshops, as well as organised outings to settings such as The Yard, outdoor adventure parks and Drummond Safari Park.
1. Support the learning and development of children with learning disabilities through creative play
2. Reduce emotional and physical exhaustion of parents and other primary carers during the school holidays
3. Increase positive sibling interaction over the Summer school interval.
Tip 1:Providing staff with as much training / information as possible regarding the children: their support and communication needs greatly influences staff member’s confidence and therefore their ability to do their job to the best of their ability.
Tip 2:Matching individual children and staff appropriately makes the world of difference. Staff members that have the right personality / character / interests etc as the child they are working with especially helps each child to come out of themselves, broadening their experiences and therefore their development potential at the same time.
Tip 3:Taking the time to get as much background information for the children attending as possible, including sensory assessments and profiles in order to ensure their needs and responses to diverse situations are fully understood.
Case Study - Paul is a 13 year old boy who has ADHD and many behavioural issues, he generally finds it extremely difficult to have the patience to finish something intricate like the sand art pictures that were being created. However this activity attracted him from the start and he seemed to enjoy being able to complete an activity independently without a great deal of support from staff, where frequently he can require a great deal of encouragement. Paul completed picture after picture and seemed to take great satisfaction in showing them to others afterwards, not tiring through this time period of the activity and asking if the company could come back again.
Case Study - Kyle is a 15 year old boy with complex needs, he requires the use of a wheelchair and constant supervision. Kyle is usually very sports orientated and tends to show little interest in alternative activities but he agreed to try the first session of our sensory drama classes. It was the first time he had participated in drama and he enjoyed it immensely, dancing and moving in his chair along with the story being acted out and the accompanying music. Following it he was all smiles and said it had been fantastic and he was then the keenest member of the class for its four week duration, gaining an incredible amount from it and the different forms of interaction he was able to have with the leader, other children participating and the staff supporting him.
During the summer break we had a separate teenage trip one day when the younger children attended soft play. This gave space for four of the older boys to plan their own day around their own wishes. They chose to go bowling and to the cinema and reportedly got a huge amount out of this, immensely enjoying the more grown up interaction and having space away from the younger / more complex children.
This was prompted by the success of the teenage club that runs throughout the year and which the parents have all fed back that their child has gained so much from it and developed socially as a result. The hope would be to have more days like this in future.
At one of our focus groups a father spoke of the stress and impact school holidays have on the whole family. He emphasised that without the support of Cosgrove all their mental health would be severely affected. He also commented on the impact of inactivity often leading to his son being physically abusive to them and himself, making Cosgrove Care an invaluable service as it keeps their son stimulated and happy.
In the feedback we received from parents and carers many emphasised that this service proved to be a lifeline for them over the school holidays, one mother commenting:
‘I don’t know what we would have done without the support of Cosgrove. The staff really care and from all the services we’ve accessed, Cosgrove is by far the best.’
Case Study - Callum is 15 a year old boy with complex needs. His mother finds the logistics of having two small children and a 15 year old boy very difficult when trying to access activities and facilities. Through the Play Schemes his mother commented that Callum gets independence and the support to do things outside the family like any other 15 year old.
For Callum’s Mum this support is priceless as it allows her to be a Mum to her two younger children, who very often have to go with the flow. She explains that her family life is dominated by managing Callum’s needs and the play schemes have allowed her the opportunity to spend time with her other children where she’s not just a full-time carer.
Another mother explains that knowing her little boy is at Play Scheme having fun in a fully supportive environment which allows him to develop, makes them feel very happy as a family. As although he is excluded from their family life during the holidays for perhaps a few days to attend play scheme, they can enjoy their other children without the pressures of Autism being involved.
‘The Play schemes have allowed me to nip to the park at short notice or watch a full film with my two wee ones. The kids love spending time like this and I think they are entitled to have time with just me as well.’
‘Paul loves coming to play scheme as he gets to be who he is and there is no pressure on him to conform in an environment where he can’t really cope in.’
‘Knowing that Mark is happy is a big factor. Leaving your child somewhere you have to know that they are happy and secure and content and Mark always has fantastic time at play scheme!’
Through the information provided on one page profiles we were able to match the child to an assigned key worker and to ensure that the children were offered activities they enjoy / find beneficial .
This was regularly reviewed with all stakeholders and changes were made when appropriate i.e. if the individual state of health worsened during the period, the activities would change accordingly.
1. One benefit was the huge number of volunteers that came forwards, primarily during the summer, to help out which enabled the children’s needs to be better met. For example some children who technically are only 1:1 benefit greatly from 2:1 support, this was evident from their behaviour and increased levels of participation. It also allows them an additional person to interact with thus contributing to their socialisation.
2. An additional benefit was that several siblings that attended indicated that they were keen to come back again. This is reflective of the success of the activities on offer, the nature of the staff and the way they work and the fact that we have clearly been able to develop a truly inclusive service appealing to children of all capabilities. This was particularly noticeable as some of the siblings enjoyed playing and played extremely well with children other than their own sibling and regardless of any existing disabilities.
3. Picture boards were used effectively with the children throughout all play schemes this year and this enabled us to show the children what they were doing now and next, allowing them to understand when they had a music or drama class and so on which contributed greatly to the children following a structured plan. This was hugely beneficial and clearly helped diminish challenging behaviour which often results from lack of structure.
1. The main challenge that we came across was staffing for the October half term play scheme. As the majority for our sessional staff and volunteers are students they do not have the availability for the middle of October that they had at Easter and during the Summer. At points we had only one trained male working and due to the specific needs of a couple of the children who require male workers this meant we had to be creative about how support was managed. Although we succeeded and managed this according to the need it was not ideal.
2. Transport has been difficult as we have had to spend a significant part of our finances on hiring private buses in order to access excellent resources, such as outdoor adventure centres like active kids, Scotland Yard and Almond Valley.
We also advertised the project on our website and encouraged families that were known to us and local services to promote our play schemes to those most in need of additional support.
Many of the children are non-verbal and some staff have attended intensive interaction training to enable them to develop their knowledge of interacting in a variety of different ways appropriate to the children’s’ needs. This was also discussed in detail and passed on through above meetings.
Staff were provided with picture communication boards that were used to help the non-verbal children express themselves, make choices and feel comfortable through knowing what was happening now and next. These were carried out with the children to ensure they were in as much control as possible of their own support.
Many of the children have a great need for sensory stimulation and as such as ensured there were as many sensory activities available as possible. This included developing a sensory room, swimming trips and providing sensory activities such as sand and water play aimed at meeting this need according to individual preferences.
Many staff attended moving and handling training in order to equip them to work with those children in wheelchairs in a way that is respectful and sensitive to their needs.
A large amount of photographs were taken throughout which can be used to demonstrate to parents the enjoyment their children received from individual activities. This was felt to be more useful for most of the children we support as the majority are predominantly non-verbal and are not able to tell us verbally what they enjoy. We did use picture boards to allow those children accustomed to using them to make active decisions when offered a couple of choices: this enabled them to make decisions for themselves in terms of what they would / wouldn’t like to do.
Feedback forms were sent to parents following the play scheme which allowed them to tell us what they felt their child got out of the play scheme, whether the activities enabled them to broaden socially / learn new skills and so on. These allowed the parents to respond to the location, timings, facilities, staffing and activities of the play scheme and provided some very good feedback both about individual successes for the children as well as pointers for the future such as activities that could be accessed.
The focus group, in addition to the questionnaires, provided a space for parents to discuss in much more depth their feelings about all aspects of the play scheme. This was extremely beneficial as the parents were able to expand on their opinions and so on and explain more fully what they needed. A large part of their responses focused on play scheme supports being even more personalised which we are looking at ways of doing.
A short video clip has also been produced to visually convey the difference the project has made to all those involved. This will appear on the Shared Care Scotland website.