Project Teen Ranch
A story by Perth Autism Support
We delivered four residential activity weekend camps this year. Two camps of 15 for children on the autism spectrum, one camp for our young adult group aged 16-18 and 1 camp of 15 for their siblings.
Prior to these camps we run fortnightly socials with the children and volunteers to get to know each other. Project Teen Ranch offers each family up to 60 hours of respite.
What Project Teen Ranch did
We actively recruited volunteers from the local university. Our Short Breaks Co-ordinator presented to the 2nd and 3rd year Childcare students and recruited from the interested parties. We also asked our existing volunteers if they would like to volunteer for project Teen Ranch, which meant the project had a fantastic mix of old and new volunteers which meant the children and young people were supported with experienced staff. Spaces on camp were allocated to children who had not previously attended a camp in our previous 4 years, then the remaining spaces were allocated after assessing which family would gain the most from the respite.
Taking the children and young people to an adventure weekend camp provides the families with 60 hours of respite (8 x 1.5 hours of socials prior to camp and 1 x 48 hour residential camp). Families have used this time in a number of ways, which has included spending time with their other child or children dong activities that they may not usually get the opportunity to do. Other parents have managed a meal out or a trip away.
The plan was to provide the young person with 1:1 support throughout the weekend. To move riskier activities to the morning when the young person was medicated. To create a set of rules specifically for the young person and for the weekend. To provide a spare room in which the young person and a staff member could move to should they need to. To acquire a copy of the menu for the weekend to seek out any issues. To set boundaries of acceptable behaviour and behaviour that would result in the young person being sent home.
What we actually did, 1:1 support was assigned to the young person. Visual rules were created and sent home to be read every night in the run up to camp. They were also brought to camp to refresh every morning. A spare room was organised at camp, this was used on the first night. A menu for the weekend was sent home so that the family could organise/pack alternative meals were needed.
Volunteers used a traffic light system (this is used in School) to address problem behaviours. If the young person becomes unreceptive to staff and exhibits repetitive behaviour and vocal outburst that are causing offence, if the volunteer coordinator is concerned over safety of the young person and the group during activities. If the young person damages property and acts recklessly. The young person will be sent home. This was shared with parents and the young person to create very clear boundaries.
Riskier activities such as Archery and canoeing were moved to the morning for the young person their medication for ADHD would still be active. This gave them a better chance of being able to listen to the safety instructions.
I am 17 years old and I love going to the activities at Perth Autism Support. I have had a weekend away to Teen Ranch. Perth Autism Support has helped me loads and I look forward to my weekly activities. I want to do my bungee jump as a way of saying thank you and so I can give something back to Perth Autism Support for all the help they have given me.
The plan was to provide the young person with 1:1 support throughout the weekend. To set very clear boundaries from the beginning of the project. For example this individual had to attend 75% of the socials, to allow him to get to know the other children and to help him work on his peer relationships. Failure to do this meant he would not experience the full weekend.
The young person did not manage to attend 75% of the social as he refused to attend. I had a meeting with the family and explained again the consequences. The young person was allowed to attend the weekend activities and meal times but were not permitted to stay the night. I felt that the young person would not cope with the full 48 hours and it would have put strain on peer relationships.
The outcome was successful as the young person had a positive experience and was proud of his achievements. He plans to return to camp and complete the full weekend.