PALS (FUNSHINE) Holiday Club
A story by ENABLE Scotland – Leading The Way
PALS(FUNSHINE) is a school holiday programme supporting children with a Learning Disability and/or other complex support needs. Enabling them to Participate in exciting activities; Interact with peers; Have fun and Achieve outcomes; Also providing carers with breaks from their caring role.
What PALS (FUNSHINE) Holiday Club did
As a school holiday club, PALS (FUNSHINE) provides children with complex needs many fun and development opportunities. Using play to engage children and young people, we support young people to achieve outcomes while enabling their parents/carers to engage in personal activities including exercise, spending time with other family members and time to accomplish essential everyday tasks.
Participants came from the PALS afterschool club, with other young people identified through our links with the local schools and the local Social Work Learning Disability team. We have provided clubs at the Easter, Summer and October school holiday periods. Although the club regularly runs between 9am-3pm, we continue to be able tailor times to meet the needs of families. Due to the continuing restriction of the pandemic, the day activities took place in our building base at Dalmuir Community Education Centre and also at the homes of the children.
Through ongoing review and development, we were able to address Better Breaks priorities 1 to 4 in the delivery of the club sessions. This included daily multiple activity hubs, ensuring choice and an opportunity for the young people to focus and settle into the centre surroundings. During the summer we were able to utilise our outdoor space delivering themed days which were influenced by the children and young people. Some of these days included the following activities:
* A Pirate Day – including an inflatable pirate ship and walking the plank.
* A Camping Day – with tents and animal print tracking, bear hunts and bug finding.
* A Water activity Day – water guns, running water, water balloons and fishing for plastic fish.
* A sports day – games and team activities - bunny hop, big step, balancing a ball race, skipping/volleyball.
* Space day – looking at the planets and space travel
* Creativity day – design/creation of individual plaques
What ENABLE Scotland – Leading The Way has learned
Targeting families most in need of support:
Throughout the pandemic the PALS (FUNSHINE) project has adapted our service delivery to try and maximise access to our service for children, young people and families. We have reached out to families who were unable to access our building-based service and provided support and restbite to them when they needed it. Support that also led to a greater understanding of the abilities of their child in a non-domestic setting. Such communication and supports are key to ensuring the service actually makes a positive difference to families during the holiday periods.
Developing new short breaks activities:
Our team is experienced and skilled in working with young people and being able to read individuals and their needs, especially in new settings. This is key to the type of new activities we develop. Through the development of ‘Day Activities’ – Dinosaur, Pirate, Space, Camping and Water days, we were able to provide multiple play stations that were fun, entertaining, challenging and teach the young person in ways that met their individual needs. In addition to the activity days, each morning activity stations are set up to welcome the young people and provide them with activities they feel comfortable with, thereby affording a period of settling in each morning they attend.
The project continues to operate within the Covid-19 Health and Safety measures that were implemented last year. Children and Young People are encouraged to wash their hands on arrival and all tables, chairs, equipment and toys are either wiped down or steam cleaned between uses. Where we were previously supporting the children and young people to socially distance, we are now able to bring them together for games and activities, creating a sense of normality. All of our safety measures to date have been successful and we have had no confirmed cases during this year. We have been able to respond to any changing government Covid-19 guidance and have our own internal policies and procedures in relation to this. All of our procedures are overseen by our Head of Health & Safety along with our internal Health & Safety committee.
How ENABLE Scotland – Leading The Way has benefitted from the funding
Better Breaks funding has allowed us to continue delivering PALS (FUNSHINE), providing support and respite in an environment that is still challenging to many families. We have been able to continue to offer a flexible service to the community, providing a varied menu of activities both in the centre, outside and in the homes of young people. Activities have developed with ongoing feedback from young people and family and meet the distinctive needs of each individual young person. We continue to have strong links with the local schools and social work department to ensure the service is known to any prospective new referrals. Word of mouth continues to prove a positive source of feedback and ongoing referral enquiries. In some form or another at a time when it has never been more needed, the funding has allowed us to be flexible in our response. With a new year of funding ahead we are planning how to build on the success of PALS(FUNSHINE) and develop the service further for the benefit of the children and families who access it.
The children and young people will have benefitted from their fun experience of PALS FUNSHINE holiday club throughout each school holiday and will have developed friendships along the way. As a result, they will be more able to build positive relationships and identify activities they enjoy.
The pandemic continues to have an impact on the services being delivered, however the staff have worked to develop a broad range of activities to provide choice and development for the children and young people attending PALS (FUNSHINE). Through review of previous sessions including feedback form the children and young people, we were able to build on successful activity days such as: * A Pirate Day – with activities such as walking the plank and an inflatable pirate ship pool * A Camping Day – with tents and animal themed activities such as animal print tracking, bear hunts and bug finding. * A Water activity Day – with lots of different water play including water guns, running water, water balloons and fishing for plastic fish. * A sports day – with different games, races and team activities including bunny hop races, big step races, balancing a ball race, skipping and volleyball. We were also able to further utilise the safe outside space for some of the activity days.
We supported a young man whose mother approached us to discuss issues her son was presenting with in relation to not eating well within his school environment. We worked with him to encourage the way he approached his ‘snacks’ both in terms of location and what he wanted to eat and how often. Initially we provided him with a private area where he could access his snacks and his packed lunch with the staff reminding him that they were there and prompting him that he should have something to eat. Over time, his snacks and lunch was moved to the common area where the other children eat their pack lunches. Again, with support and prompting, the young man, started to eat his snacks. Although he likes to sit on his own in this area, he now presents with a much more positive outlook in relation to his food. He is a very talkative young man and has spoken about how much he likes the service, enjoying telling other people all about it.
The carers of the children who attend PALS(FUNSHINE) holiday club will be able to report on how these periods of respite have had a positive impact on them pursuing their own hobbies and interests.
We recognise that for many parents and carers respite allows activities that many people take for granted, with many seeing respite as something that is there just to improve the quality of life for their child, rather than they, themselves. Over the last year the communication and feedback we have had from parents and carers presents a picture of positive supports and developments. Not only within their children, but also in their own lives. Being able to take time away from their important caring role knowing that their child is in a supportive, encouraging and safe environment allows them to spend their reclaimed time to carry out, to quote one parent, “normal everyday things”. * Activities include: * Being able to do things around the house * Gardening * Being able to keep working or pursue learning * Being able to spend time with other children * Spending time for self-care and relaxation * Pursuing their own hobbies and interests
During the pandemic a young man, who presented as nonverbal, was unable to attend the service. Staff worked with him and his family and were able to step in and develop a structure of support for him within his own home and garden. We provided him with activities such as jigsaws, art, and other indoor activities. We also utilised his garden, using climbing frames, swings and ‘playing mazes’. This included previous input that supported his own learning through prompting. His mother has commented that she not only had time for her own activities, but it allowed her to spend dedicated time with his sibling. We received feedback from his mother reporting that she had not realised ‘half the things he could do for himself’. Having the support at home let her see this and provided ongoing development activities for the whole family. In addition, his grandparents have also become more involved providing additional supports within the family structure.
The carers of the children who attend PALS (FUNSHINE) holiday will report feeling more resilient. They will have been supported by ENABLE Scotland to have knowledge and access to other sources of support.
PALS (FUNSHINE) has provided opportunities both within the centre and also within an individual home for carers to have periods of respite that have made positive impacts on their lives. Although the direct of the pandemic has lessened, parents still report that their caring role continue played a large part of their ongoing activities. Parents have reported that the PALS (FUNSHINE) sessions during the school holidays has enabled them, for example to have focused time to spend with their other children and continue to work from home during holiday periods and beyond. We continued to encourage carers to use Family Connect, our service to help support family members and loved ones of people with a disability. We have developed a Survey Monkey feedback questionnaire that parents and carers will be able to access by phone and so we will be able to develop services that further meet the needs of both young people and families.
One young lady has really benefitted from her time at FUNSHINE this year, as is evidenced from her reduced behaviours and participation in activities. She has previously displayed some challenging behaviour, however the team implemented a new strategy which has shown a reduction in these behaviours. We worked closely with her mother to discuss her individual needs in relation to her responses to situations. We ensured that she was introduced to private areas where she was able to take time to herself when situations arose and was able to return to the group when she wanted to. Through her time at FUNSHINE, we were able to look at new activities from her interaction with existing activities and the group. The young lady has also responded well to having lots of activities outside and loves to play the garden sized ‘4 in a row’. She has also began to show interest in other activities through new play station areas set up both indoors and outdoors. She began to participate in drawing and football balloon games. Although this is still on an individual basis, she now participates in tandem with the other groups in FUNSHINE. Her mum has also provided feedback, reporting that she feels more relaxed as she is confident that her daughter is well supported at FUNSHINE.
The children attending PALS(FUNSHINE) will be able to access fun activities, relax and create friendships. The carers will experience improved personal wellbeing, identify a positive impact on their children and have increased support in their caring role.
Throughout the course of delivery we gathered evidence of the positive experiences that the children had as a result of attending the holiday club, which enabled staff to develop new activities. Providing a good mix of fun and rewarding activities and facilities, including a safe outside area, we are able to support the development of young people outside a standard centre-based environment. Listening to families/carers and working closely with the young people, we were able to create entertaining learning and play zones that matched the individual needs and interests of the young people; small group activities, individual projects and larger activity days. Parents and carers provide verbal feedback on how FUNSHINE has provided support during the school holidays, providing time for them to support other family members, having time to work, and seeing development in their children not realising the things they can do for themselves and building on these back at home.
The parents have all been very thankful for the support that FUNSHINE has provided. This has been especially true for the family of D, a 17 year old boy with a learning disability who has limited vocabulary, presents with some challenging behaviour and takes seizures. During the holidays his family thought he had secured an alternative holiday placement through his school however this fell through and FUNSHINE was asked at short notice to provide his support. The staff were able to provide his support meaning that mum and dad could continue working. His mum was very anxious about him attending as sometimes he can present in a heightened state where there is a danger that he can hit people around him. However, through good daily communication with his parents and the implementation of some proactive and reactive strategies, the FUNSHINE staff were able to successfully and safely support him during the holidays. In the mornings mum had wanted to wait outside in the car for the first 15 minutes to ensure that he would settle, however she quickly realised that the staff were skilled in supporting D to adjust to the holiday club setting.