Reaching Further with Reach4Reality
A story by Reach4Reality
We provided short outdoor activity breaks for 7 young people with autism, tailored to their individual needs.
We also ran 2 family weekend outdoor activity camps, the Duke of Edinburgh Award, 10 evening activity sessions (canoeing and mountain biking) and a Transitions Group and weekend camp.
What Reaching Further with Reach4Reality did
We worked with 7 young people who did not get funding for our services through self-directed support, involving them in short outdoor activity breaks tailored to their individual needs either 1:1 or small group activities, and ranging from short sessions through overnight stays or weekend camps to a 5 day camp for a couple of the young people.
We ran 2 family camp weekends each for 3 young people and 3-5 family members, at Abernethy Trust, Nethybridge and outdoor activities included mountain biking, canoeing, aerial runway, bushcraft.
We continued to run the Duke of Edinburgh award for 9 young people and started supporting another 3 young people with their Bronze Award. This included providing training and support for their 2 day practice and qualifying canoe expeditions.
We ran 5 evening mountain biking sessions and 5 evening canoe sessions for teenagers with autism this took place locally to Inverness and some of the young people were already known to us, others found out about the activities through local networks. While the young people were enjoying their activities some of the carers took part in a Parenting for Teenagers course that we ran concurrently.
We ran a Transitions Group for young people with autism. This involved 2 sessions on basic budgeting, 1 on healthy eating, 2 on cooking, 1 on personal safety and another involved a visit to the local Fire Station where they learnt basic first aid and CPR. We also held 3 information evenings for parents and their carers where they were able to hear from and speak to local organisations providing support to over 18s.
With the Transitions group we also involved them in planning a weekend away which they enjoyed at Abernethy Trust, Nethybridge in April and the activities they chose were Mission Impossible, dry ski slope, crate climbing and aerial runway, and they all enjoyed preparing and cooking their meals together.
Other than during the evening sessions, we did not work directly with the carers, but they were able to use their time resting, spending time with other family members or were able to go out and about more. Priorities addressed were, complex needs, sport & active leisure, independence, transitions.
What Reach4Reality has learned
Developing new short breaks activities, the project included us coordinating and supervising a Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award expedition for the first time. Although we already knew the young people quite well from supporting them through the other sections, the expedition training and the practice expedition were a steep learning curve for both us and the young people.
As well as the group training sessions, they all needed a lot of extra 1:1 training and support to learn the basic skills of camping/camp cooking. Although most of the participants coped with the route on the practice expedition, the use of a photo/picture routecard and trail really helped them all as a group and individually to get some idea of distances and how far they had to go, thus reducing anxiety.
As part of the sessions for the Transitions Group we had arranged a couple of sessions to be led by the local youth worker from the Red Cross to cover basic first aid and resuscitation, but she left the post just a couple of weeks before they were due to be held and they were unable to provide anyone else. We therefore changed the focus to personal safety with a bit of basic first aid and ran the first session ourselves: this was probably more useful for the teenagers as it was very interactive and engaging, as it was created specifically for the members we had in the group.
For the second session we arranged for a visit to the local fire station and this was a great success for the lads as they got to sit in the fire engine and see around the station as well as having a go at CPR and putting someone in the recovery position. Numbers were lower than we had hoped for the group but for each of the teenagers involved it was very beneficial.
All parts of the project emphasised again the importance of flexibility and adaptability in providing the activities.
How Reach4Reality has benefitted from the funding
The Transitions group and weekend was a pilot and trial of a new service due to the lower uptake than anticipated, we are not planning on offering this on a regular basis (unless there is a definite group identified) but will try to incorporate some of our learning in our activities for older young people and our planned trial of working with a small number of over 19s. As we have been running the Duke of Edinburgh Award, we have been able to establish greater links with other providers locally, both those running the award for young people with additional support needs and those providing it within a mainstream school setting. All aspects of the project have continued to strengthen our reputation locally, and we are now looking to have a trial period working with a few young adults over the age of 19.
Up to 40 young people with Autism will have participated in fun, active outdoor and leisure activities through the 1:1 sessions, day activities, weekend or 5 day camps, short activity sessions or Duke of Edinburgh award scheme, as well as developed friendships.
35 young people with Autism took part in at least one aspect of the project, enjoying a variety of outdoor activities. For the 4 young people completing their Bronze Award, their qualifying canoe expedition was particularly rewarding as they worked together as a team and coped with the challenges of camping and cooking their own meals. The build up of sessions and planning with the members of the Transitions Group really helped 2 of the group gain in confidence and build up relationships with the other members and adults so that they were able to take a full part in the weekend away together.
Hazel is an 18 year old with autism who took part and completed her Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award through the project. Due to her autism she experiences great anxiety and this causes selective mutism, especially in new or social situations. However, working closely with Hazel and her parents, we were able to give her the support she needed to complete all four sections of the Award. For her volunteering, she helped with the baby and pre-school groups at her family's church, playing with the children, helping at snack time or with the computer for story time. The feedback from her assessor was very positive: that she reliably followed instructions, was a great support to her team leader and had a lovely ability to interact well with the children making them feel welcome and nurtured. This really boosted her self-confidence. For her physical section, she went indoor climbing each week with a member of our staff which really helped her physical fitness and as she herself wrote: "I have tried lots of different routes and I enjoy climbing". Hazel started going to guitar lessons for her skills section, initially accompanied by her Mum, but she now continues to go without any additional support. With support she was also able to play in a couple of concerts organised by her guitar tutor and this is an amazing achievement for her! Hazel took part in a number of training sessions for her Bronze canoeing expedition, both learning the necessary campcraft (cooking on camp stoves, putting up tents etc) and improving her canoeing skills. The actual practice and qualifying expeditions were a great challenge for her due to her anxiety, both about the unknown aspects of the expedition route and about staying away from her parents. On the practice expedition Hazel therefore took part in the journeying, setting up camp and cooking her meal, but was very anxious throughout the day and was too anxious to stay and camp overnight, so slept at home then joined the rest of the group for the journeying the next day. With the additional support we were able to provide Hazel and the 3 other team members for the qualifying expedition, for example creating a picture route-card where they had picture clues to find and follow, Hazel's anxiety was reduced and she managed really well with the journeying, especially as she was given the responsibility for finding and collecting the photos. We also arranged for Hazel's Mum to paddle the route ahead of the group with the expedition assessor, just meeting up at pre-arranged locations: this too really helped to reduce Hazel's anxiety. Hazel managed well with putting up her tent and cooking her meal and being able to share her tent with her Mum for the night helped her to overcome her earlier anxieties about camping. Although on her expeditions Hazel did not communicate verbally with her team members, she was clearly part of the team and it was wonderful to see them all communicating and working together as a team as they journeyed and undertook their aim of litter picking as they travelled. When Hazel was presented with her Bronze Award Certificate and badge she had every right to feel proud of herself and her achievements in all the different activities she took part in!
Up to 50 carers of young people with a social communication difficulty will have improved well-being due to having a break from their caring role. Up to 40 young people will have improved well-being due to participation in active leisure and outdoor activities.
35 young people with Autism took part in at least one aspect of the project, enjoying a variety of outdoor activities and 50 carers benefited from the break from their caring role. During the break they received, the carers were able to spend more quality time with other family members, go out more on their own or just enjoy the time relaxing. Five carers participated in our Time Out For Parents-the Teenage Years, and appreciated the chance to share their challenges with other carers as well as learning more about ideas they could implement to further benefit their own and their teenager's well-being.
Rachel is a 16 year old girl with autism who lives at home with her Mum and is home-schooled because she cannot cope with the stresses of the school environment due to her autism. Her Mum, Angela, therefore does not get much of a break from her caring role as most of her time is taken with arranging and accompanying Rachel on a variety of activities. Through our project we were able to work with Rachel on a 1:1 basis involving her in a variety of activities locally, for example going to the gym, going for a walk. She also came for a number of day activities with us enjoying outdoor activities such as kayaking, mountain biking, archery, aerial runway. Rachel also completed her Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award with us. Through these activities Rachel's wellbeing has improved in the following ways, improved physical fitness and stamina, increased confidence as she has learnt new skills (e.g. campcraft, upcycling furniture for a local charity for her volunteering); sense of pride and achievement as she camped overnight for the very first time on her Qualifying expedition, greater social interaction and skills as she has got to know and related with other young people and adults on the activities (thus reducing her social isolation). While Rachel has been enjoying her activities with us, her Mum, Angela has really benefited from the break from her caring role as she has been able to rest and relax and has particularly enjoyed being able to take their dog for longer walks! She said that knowing that Rachel is having fun and enjoying herself in a safe and supported environment, helps her own wellbeing too, especially when she sees Rachel achieving so much.
Up to 16 carers/family members will have had the opportunity to try a variety of outdoor activities on a family camp, up to 16 carers will have had the opportunity to meet socially with other carers.
Eight family members came to one of our two Family Weekend Camps and enjoyed a variety of outdoor activities which included canoeing, mountain biking, bushcraft, aerial runway. Another parent was due to come but was unable to because he was unwell. During the weekends the family members appreciated the opportunity to meet and get to know the other family members within the social setting of the camps. A further 5 carers met, shared and learnt from each other during our Time Out for Parents course which included a meal out together at the end of the course.
Our 2 Family weekend camps at Abernethy Trust, Nethybridge were a great opportunity for the family members who came along to enjoy some time away from their caring role and to try some outdoor activities for themselves. On the camps the young people stayed in one chalet supported by Reach4Reality staff and volunteers, with the family members staying in the neighbouring chalet, again supported by Reach4Reality staff and volunteers. Generally the young people and family members followed their own activity programme, although there was flexibility in this to cater for individual needs and preferences. Both groups met up for swimming and mealtimes. David is dad to Andy a 15 year old boy with autism who has been away with us many times. David though had never really had the opportunity to try any outdoor activities and would feel slightly envious of Andy when he heard what he had done on his camps! He was therefore very keen to come on one of our family camps, along with Andy. He greatly appreciated having the break from caring for Andy himself but they both decided to do activities together. With the support from staff and volunteers they were enabled to just enjoy the activities together without the usual stresses of making sure Andy's needs were being met. David commented that this was the first time that he and Andy had really enjoyed some quality time together, that they had a fantastic time and that it really brought them together as father and son (rather than carer and cared for person) and that this is still now continuing with a much closer bond between them. Andy now sees that his Dad can be fun!
Up to 50 carers will feel better supported to sustain their caring role, through being involved in the planning of the activities their young person receives to ensure that they are tailored to the young person’s individual needs.
35 young people with autism took part in at least one aspect of the project, enjoying a variety of outdoor activities and their carers (50) were involved in the planning and preparation of the activities so that their young person's individual needs were met.
Joe is a 13 year old boy with autism who lives at home with his Mum, Sarah, who too has her own significant care needs. Joe has been involved with our project for a few years, enjoying weekly 1:1 sessions, usually going for a walk with his dog and a member of Reach4Reality staff, plus the occasional weekend camp with us and last summer he had the confidence to go away on our 5 day camp at Abernethy Trust, Ardgour this is quite a challenge for him as it was a new place with new and more challenging activities than he had done before e.g. gorge walking. In planning for all these activities both Joe and Sarah have been closely involved in choosing the activities and other details of the camps and this really helps Sarah to feel confident that Joe's needs will be met on camp so that she feels more supported in sustaining her caring role and can therefore benefit more from the break in her caring role while Joe is away "he gets excited to go away now and doesn't feel anxious about going so I'm not worried". The camps and short activities also help Joe to feel supported in sustaining his own caring role for his Mum he has been able to work through some of his anxieties as a carer with the Reach4Reality member of staff on their weekly walks, as well as just being able to enjoy chatting and joking together. The weekends and 5 day camp, really give him a break too from his own caring role, as he enjoys the activities and especially playing card games with others.
Additional project outcome
Young people will have greater confidence and understanding as they become adults.
As part of the project we ran a Transitions Group for a small number of teenagers with autism or a social communication difficulty. This involved sessions on basic budgeting, healthy eating, food preparation and cooking, personal safety/basic first aid and a visit to the Fire station to learn about CPR and the recovery position. We then held 3 information evenings for the young people and their carers to hear from and meet representatives from local organisations providing support to young adults. We also had a planning meeting with the teenagers to discuss and decide on the activities they wanted to do on a weekend away together (crate climbing, adventure course, aerial runway and dry slope skiing), as well as coming up with a menu that they were all happy with. The Wednesday evening before the weekend away, we met them at a local supermarket and they all helped with the shopping for the weekend. In the end only 3 of the teenagers came on the weekend but for each of them it was a great opportunity to practice some of the skills they had learnt as a group, for example preparing and cooking spaghetti bolognese together, and clearing, washing and drying up together skills which they did not often get a chance to practice at home for a variety of reasons. For one of the teenagers in particular, Iain, the gradual build up to the weekend away, the chance to meet regularly with the other teenagers and the close involvement in choosing activities and the food they were going to eat, greatly boosted his confidence as he felt some ownership of the weekend, and knowing all these things greatly reduced his anxieties. Prior to the Transitions weekend he had been on a skiing weekend with us a couple of years ago accompanied by his Mum, but had been extremely anxious and since then had lost his confidence, however the Transitions group/weekend has helped him to feel more confident about going away again. One of the other teenagers had never stayed away from home before (other than with close family members) and he too gained in confidence through the group to be able to stay away for the weekend, and is now looking forward to staying away with the local Disability sports group, as well as joining us for our summer 5 day camp!