A story by RNIB Scotland
West of Scotland Sailing adventure – In July 2013 10 blind and partially sighted CYP sailed from Oban aboard Alba Volunteer for a 5 day/4 night sailing adventure. Promoting Independence Summer Camp – Broomlee – This 5 day/4 night residential was attended by 15 YP aged 14-18. The focus was on independent living and transition.
It included workshops on developing confidence, assistive technology, cooking skills, independent travel, personal care, employability, preparation for post-16 transition, outdoor activities and loads of fun!
5 weekly Out of School Clubs :- These have been delivered at Knowetop Primary in North Lanarkshire; Uddingston Grammar School, South Lanarkshire; Aberdeen Visual Impairment Service, Aberdeen City; Darnley Primary School, Glasgow; Eyebeez Club, Hamilton. Each club is regularly attended by 10-15 children.
Family Fun Day (Borders) :- We had an Outdoor Adventure Activity Day for all the family on 2nd November 2013. Attended by 20 children and young people with 15 parents and 8 volunteers. The emphasis was on team building and confidence development. Despite torrential rain all the families had an excellent experience.
Activate aims to improve the health and wellbeing of visually impaired children and young people aged 0-18, increase social and communication skills; encourage leadership development, enhance assistive technology and social media skills and have fun! Carers get a break while such support is delivered and/or receive help and advice and engage with others in the same situation as themselves through peer support opportunities. We engage with a wide range of providers to deliver an imaginative programme thereby promoting disability awareness and wider social inclusion.
Tip 1:Engage with families at outset to develop a package they want and not what you think they want
Tip 2:Be flexible and prepare for the Scottish weather when organising activities.
Tip 3:Listen, reflect, respond and enjoy
James, 17 who is totally blind, with a moderate learning difficulty, had never stayed away overnight before. Through regular involvement and group activities he become more open as the week progressed. He joined in with jokes and was keen to discuss politics with another group member. He said no-one had ever let him express his opinions before. At the end of the week he exchanged contact details and now maintains links with other attendees.
Promoting Independence Summer Camp - August 2013 We took 15 blind and partially sighted 14-18 year olds to Broomlee Outdoor Centre in the Borders for 5 days. The purpose of the Summer Camp was to prepare this group at a key transition point in their lives. We worked with them on personal independence; delivered confidence-building workshops; gave advice on personal care; the use of assistive technology; employability skills; post- 1 6 education and cooking skills.
Out of School Clubs - As part of our RNIB Activate initiative, 5 out of school clubs have been supported through Better Breaks funding. 4 school based - at Uddingston Grammar School, Knowetop Primary, Darnley Primary, Aberdeen City Visual Impairment Services. These groups have included the delivery of a wide range of activities such as; Judo, Trampolining, Goalball, Boccia, kayaking, raft-building, sailing, mini zoo, theatre visits, etc.
In addition, RNIB Activates supports a fledgling Visually Impaired Kids Club called Eyebeez supporting 12 children. We fund their activity programme, and regularly attend to engage with participants and their parents. Emphasis is placed on promoting inclusion, increasing confidence and enabling improved motor skills through fun activity and sport
Borders Family Fun Day - 2nd November 2013 Through our initial engagement with CYP and families to establish what they were looking for from RNIB Activate, we were told that many wanted outdoor fun. To facilitate this we ran a Family Event at Broomlee Outdoor Centre which was aimed at 5-16 year old and their families. This was deliberate as we wanted parents to join in the activities, to see their child succeed and for the whole family to have a break.
Case Study - Nathan -15. Nathan lost his sight completely 2 years ago as a result of a build up of cranial pressure which has also left him with a learning disability and limited attention. He has had a lot of weight gain and finds it hard to stay focused. This meant he needed constant one-to-one support throughout his stay. He also has significant emotional and behavioural difficulties as a consequence of his life-changing experience. Although, Nathan found it hard to fully participate in all activities, showing reluctance to sit in group situations for long, he did manage to join in with Archery and the Flying Fox (much to his delight).
His family has found it hard adjusting to Nathan's condition and the Break allowed them to spend time with his younger siblings. His mum has said that his sister "would just like the old Nathan back". Unfortunately, this will not happen, but by providing such experiences we can assist the family in coping with Nathan and help them achieve some form of respite when things are challenging.
We have delivered sighted guide training and visual impairment awareness sessions to many of these. We hope this will make it easier for these groups to feel more able to address the needs of CYP living with sight loss in the future.
Our activities aim to enable our CYP; to help them cope with sight loss and to prepare them for independent adulthood. Similarly, we believe firmly that parents/carers need effective and efficient support to create a positive, nurturing home environment. Respite opportunities scaffold this.
Our activities are fun. They allow visually impaired children to come together, provide peer support, try something new and to gain essential life skills. For carers; they can have a break, develop a deeper understanding of sight loss or meet other parents. Our ' menu' allows for all of this to take place.
The CYP themselves told us they want adventure and new experiences, which has led to the Sailing Adventure. For others the desire for greater personal independence has resulted in our fantastic Summer Camp - which is life-changing for many who attended. We evaluate each event, during and after to gauge client satisfaction.
These are either through Log Books, which are dynamic during the Sailing and Summer Camp; or Questionnaires which measure satisfaction. Participants are encouraged to tell us what they would like us to do next.
Our Summer Camp focused on personal independence, travel, self confidence, positive approaches to vision impairment, assistive technology, etc, etc. The statutory sector does its best to meet the educational needs of VI learners, however peer situations make this type of individualised preparation easier to do outside of school.
Through a bit of reorganization and pre planning we have now agreed to deliver extra activities between February and March 2014. This will include a Family Day in Inverness and a residential break just in case there is inclement weather at that time of the year.
Furthermore, through direct engagement with specialist Teachers of the Visually Impaired, we have been able to reach out to particular young people and children who would benefit from our Breaks and activities programme.
These children will be identified by our database or through direct contact with specialist Teachers of the Visually Impaired in these areas. We will run a Fun Day at a special school, assisted by a number of partners including Teachers, North East Sensory Service, PAMIS, NDCS.
We have also delivered a one day activities workshop for children with sight loss who have additional multiple needs at our centre in Bishopbriggs that support children with learning difficulties and sight loss. The kids attending this centre were referred to the activities workshop.
We are connecting more effectively with our families and consequently ensuring they are being well supported. Our families have felt ignored and children were not being provided with access to leisure activities. By creating new opportunities we have been able to enrich CYP's lives and help develop a positive approach to dealing with blindness; amongst the carers and the CYP themselves.
I have also appreciated the flexible approach adopted by Shared Care Scotland as we at times have had to 'tweak' our delivery in response to the needs of children, parental request or geographical challenges.
All of our Family Fun Days are assessed through questionnaires/post-it boards at the end of the day to measure enjoyment and success of activities and to continue the engagement with Families to see what they are looking for from future events.
Our out of school clubs are monitored on our behalf by group leaders. They regularly report to us how the children enjoy the events we support.