Project Teen Ranch
A story by Perth Autism Support
We provided four outdoor activity weekends for children under the age of 18 in Perth & Kinross diagnosed with autism and a separate weekend break for their young carer siblings to allow different options of respite for the whole family.
Each weekend supported 15 children with autism and 15 young carer siblings also had the opportunity to attend their weekend.
What Project Teen Ranch did
Our Short Breaks Co-ordinator actively recruited volunteers from Dundee University and presented to the 2nd and 3rd year Child Care students at Perth College UHI about the project and the benefits of gaining experience working with children on the autism spectrum in terms of thinking about their future careers and CV's, and recruited from the interested parties.
Our Short Breaks Co-ordinator has also built up fantastic relationships with existing Short Breaks Volunteer and they were all encouraged to return to the project. We therefore had a fantastic mix of experienced and new volunteers.
Spaces on camp were allocated to children who had not previously attended a camp. Then the remaining spaces were allocated after assessing which family would gain the most from the respite. We took the children to Teen Ranch for an outdoors activity weekend. This provides the families with 60 hours of respite (8 x 1.5 hours of socials prior to camp and 1 x 48hr residential camp)
Families have used this time in a number of ways, which has included spending time with their other child or children doing activities that they may not usually get the opportunity to do. Other parents have managed a meal out or a trip away.
N grew in confidence during the course of short breaks and managed every aspect of the weekend. This has in turn resulted in N accessing their P7 residential trip. This was something mum thought would not be achievable. Through the process of short breaks we helped prepare N for camp with a pre camp trip to have a look around where he would be staying, including picking which bed he would sleep in and while there, our Short Breaks Co-ordinator took pictures which were put in a booklet for him to look over at home with mum and while attended the pre camp socials as a visual aid and reminder of what would be happening. This preparation was key to the success of the weekend for N.
Mum was very appreciative and has said Project Teen Ranch was a huge success. “N had a great time and it sparked off his new found independence”
This gave H the confidence to speak about what it was like having a sibling on the autism spectrum, and the friendships made through Project Teen Ranch have meant that she now has the confidence to attend our regular siblings activities which means that she now has access to continued support from peers and staff.
Through the process the staff and volunteers were able to prepare R for the activities that would be happening, listen to his worries and anxieties and put a plan in place with R and mum about what would happen to help resolve any issues or anxieties as they happened. Through peer friendships built during the project, not only did R have the support and encouragement of the staff and volunteers, the other children on camp were equally as supportive of R encouraging him to try activities.
R managed all the outdoor activities that he would not have tried otherwise without the support. This was the first time that mum and the child had spent any time apart. Mum is a single mother so the respite was very much appreciated.
R had a positive first experience of being away from home. “My child was away from me for the first time. It gave him the chance to gain independence and socialise with other children”
What Perth Autism Support has learnedThe short breaks project has been a fantastic addition to service, the project has allowed us as an organisation to offer a choice of short breaks to parents/carers through our full range of services. At present children who access Perth Autism Support do not meet criteria for support through statutory services but are often unable to access mainstream support due to lack of confidence, knowledge or support.
The project has allowed us to support carers to use their child's experience at camp to help prepare, plan and support appropriately within other mainstream activities (their P7 residential trip) due to their successful short breaks experience. Children who have attended camp are sign posted to other areas of service within Perth Autism Support that will be beneficial, and where they can continue friendships that have developed, and continue to work on skills development to allow them the confidence and ability to attend other services.
The benefits are numerous, increased confidence, independence, time away from the family home and a chance to be children. We have attracted new carers and those likely to ask for support by developing our relationships with other statutory and voluntary providers who have referred and supported carers and families to access our services. Our Family Support team and Activities have also identified internal referrals from families they recognise may benefit from the project.