Reach4Reality Phase 3
A story by Reach4Reality
We organised short outdoor activity breaks for young people with social communication difficulties from Highland.
Activities ranged from a few hours to overnight and weekend stays and included a variety of activities such as biking, badminton, horse riding, gorgewalking.
What Reach4Reality Phase 3 did
We recruited a Project Worker to work 15 hours a week with the young people. We worked with 5 young people who we had already been working with through our Better Breaks 2014-15 funding plus 5 new young people. We advertised the opportunities through our networks locally including Chip+, Connecting carers, Friends of Autism Highland and National Autistic Society. The young people were chosen giving priority to their individual/social needs, the families needs and taking into account other opportunities they might have for respite or outdoor activities.
We provided the following activities: 45 short 1:1 activity sessions (up to 3 hours) locally doing activities such as badminton, walk, bike ride, archery or climbing. Two half day activity sessions, 8 full activity days (8-9 hours) at local outdoor activity centres, 5 overnight stays plus outdoor activities at Abernethy Trust Nethybridge. 10 weekend activity breaks at Abernethy Trust Nethybridge, activities included gorge walking, dry slope skiing, kayaking, canoeing, adventure course, team challenges, aerial runway, zipwire and mountain biking.
The day activities, overnight stays and weekend breaks were in small groups with other young people supported 1:1 by Reach4Reality staff and volunteers and gave the young people lots of opportunities for social interaction. While the young people were on activity breaks with us, their carers were able to spend quality time with other family members, to spend the time resting or relaxing or were able to go out more on their own.
Sam has enjoyed 7 short activity sessions (usually a walk locally), an activity day (canoeing and den building), an overnight stay and three weekend stays at Abernethy Trust, Nethybridge, taking part in a variety of outdoor activities with a small group of other young people. His Mum has seen his confidence grow so that he has been able to try new activities with 1:1 support. These included dry slope skiing, an activity which he was initially very reluctant to try but was really proud of himself when he persevered and was able to master the basics. He also tried horse riding for the first time on one of his weekend stays.
Sam’s activity breaks have greatly helped his Mum to sustain her caring role as she has been able to spend the time resting and making sure her own health needs are taken care of knowing that Sam was having fun and been well looked after.
Although she participated fully in all the outdoor activities she was very much on the periphery of the group socially. However, the day had given her sufficient confidence to mention to her Mum that she would like to consider returning to school and since Easter 2016 she has been going part-time to her local High School.
In the meantime she had an overnight stay on our March camp with 1 ½ days activities her Mum came and stayed with her for the night but Rhiannon participated in the rest of the camp without her Mum being around. By the end of her stay Rhiannon was joining in with card games with the other girls on the camp and was becoming more involved in the social aspects of the camp. Also two of the other girls on the camp attend the school Rhiannon was due to start, so she was able to meet and get to know them beforehand and this has also helped her with her return to school.
Rhiannon’s Mum feels that Rhiannon would never have gained the confidence to return to school or cope with the bigger groups at school without the input of Reach4Reality and the progressive and small steps involved to gradually build up to an overnight away and from doing activities on a 1:1 to doing them in a small group. Rhiannon is now looking forward to a full weekend away without her Mum! Rhiannon has also been able to use her increased confidence to try other new activities, for example going to a local gym.
During 2015-16, she has continued to enjoy regular short activity breaks with the Project Worker and has extended the range of activities she is comfortable and confident to take part in, for example indoor climbing and sessions in the local gym. She has also enjoyed 3 further activity days as part of a small group and has grown in confidence as she has tried new and more challenging activities such as gorge walking, the zipwire, crate climbing and dry slope skiing.
She has also been able to cope better with the social aspects of her days interacting with other young people and the adults on the activities. She has developed a friendship with one of the other girls on her activity days and has met up with her socially a few times. Eilidh has also recently had an overnight stay on one of our weekends and her mother stayed with her during the night but then went home and left her for the rest of that day to enjoy the activities. This is something her parents would never have thought possible 18 months ago! She is now also looking forward to a full weekend away later in the summer without her Mum.
What Reach4Reality has learnedThe employment of a part-time project worker has helped us to really tailor the activities to the needs of the individual young people and to be able to offer more regular shorter activities locally, as our work has progressed, this is something that the young people have really needed and benefited from as it builds their confidence before being able to cope with a longer activity break or one with other young people.
We have found that some young people due to the needs of their autism may find doing activities within even the small groups we have too challenging. For some even the thought of going away for an overnight is beyond their coping abilities. We have gained an insight into how some young people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder can really struggle with the school environment.