Saturday Adventure Team East Lothian
A story by Lothian Autistic Society
The Saturday Adventure Team provided opportunities for autistic children to get together in a safe and supported environment to have fun, make friends, explore and expand their horizons.
The regular six hour sessions give parents and carers valuable time to do other things at the weekend.
What Saturday Adventure Team East Lothian did
The Saturday Adventure Team meets fortnightly in Meadowpark Annex, Knox Academy Haddington and is for children and young people with autism and associated conditions who find it challenging to attend mainstream social clubs and activities. The club currently has 15 members aged between 7 and 17 (average 10.6), all but two members are male. Most members come from East Lothian, although 2 come from Edinburgh and one form Midlothian. Most heard about the team from previous members or through social media although two joined following parent information meetings at local schools.
Sessions are for 6 hours during school term time and alternate between activities based in and around Meadowpark and trips further afield ( to country parks, cultural and historic sites and other attractions). This year we have introduced a monthly theme to the programme (such as transport, science, nature, Scotland, sports) in line with other similar projects in other parts of the Lothians, which has facilitated better resource use across the services.
The programme is structured to give the members a real opportunity to grow and be more active, to explore new places and learn new skills. In each of these areas it has been very successful.
Carers reported spending time doing shopping and meeting friends as well as spending time with other siblings and several expressed a high appreciation for this. This is the second year of this project and continues to be highly regarded by the members, their families and carers.
What Lothian Autistic Society has learned
This is the second year we have delivered this project in East Lothian. We have improved staff recruitment by working with partners such as the education service and The action group to use local officers for interviewing applicants. We have also been able to re-establish links with the local authority and are working with them to improve and expand provision for children with disabilities in the local area. We continue to be keen to find alternative sources of funding for this project, which many families see as a lifeline.
How Lothian Autistic Society has benefitted from the funding
The primary benefit has been the capacity to deliver a new service in East Lothian, which is valued by the children and young people who attend and provides essential respite for their parents and carers. We have also been able to demonstrate the effectiveness of our services to the local authority and have been more closely involved with them in looking at new and additional services in the area.
15 children and young people with autism will have enjoyed a programme of activities and outings that have stimulated them and had the opportunity to develop new friendships.
Over the past year 15 children and young people have been part of the Saturday Adventure Team. The have been engaged in a programme that has alternated activities and excursions much of which they have experienced for the first time. The programme, which will run until the end of the school year, has comprised 20 sessions to date. Children who completed an evaluation of the service all said that it made them feel happy or very happy, 75% said that they had made new friends. Comments around the best thing about the Team included ‘trips’, ‘soft play’ and that ‘it’s my favourite’. All parents who completed evaluation forms agreed or strongly agreed with the statements “My child had made new friends”, “My child has engaged in a new activity” and “My child has learned a new skill
A has been a member since May 2018 and has flourished within the service. A mainly struggled with transition, often needing extra time to process moving between activities. He also had difficulty in effectively verbalising his thoughts and feelings to staff and other members. Throughout his time at Saturday Adventure Team, A has been encouraged and had opportunities to build capacity in these areas and achieve new skills. A would often find it difficult to make transitions between activities. Staff supported A with this by providing information in advance about predictable changes happening during the day to help him feel more comfortable during transition. Moving from one activity to another was hard for A because he would become deeply involved in playing with specific games. Now, A is better able to handle small everyday transitions at Saturday Adventure Team, enhancing his self-regulation skills. A is also working on bigger transitions with bus trips. A is more hesitant on trip days as this often involves going to a new setting. Staff have adopted a consistent approach on these days, building trusting relationships with A. Once on trips A always has fun, gets involved and tries new things. A particularly enjoyed our trips to Glasgow Science Centre, Dalkeith Country Park, Deep Sea World and Transport Museum.
The families/carers of 15 children and young people with autism will have benefited from up to 144 hours break from caring, allowing them to spend time doing things with other family members or on their own
Familes have received 120 hours break from caring over the past year. On feedback forms they mention benefits: "The time L is in Saturday Adventure Team allows us to take Lewis younger sibling places that L would not cope. It allows us a bit of time without the worry and stress and allows L to burn energy and we know he is being cared for where people understand him." "We enjoy the opportunity to relax for a few hours a fortnight knowing that she is safe and enjoying herself. We would really miss this club if she couldn't continue there."
Feedback from parent of C: "The group provides a social opportunity for C that she does not get outwith school. She has no friends or siblings so the only people she interacts with over the weekends would be adults. As you know she is a social person and enjoys being in a group and I can see how well you are your staff have got to know her and also how the other children interact with her. For children like C where she needs one to one support, she cannot participate in the usual social activities other children enjoy such as after school clubs, sports clubs, brownies or dance classes! She does not have any clubs, other than yours then 1 more on the Sunday of the same weekend, that are suitable for her so we all look forward to and appreciate more than anything that she is safe and cared for and with her peers which she simply doesn’t have the chance to experience at any other time. For me, it is the only time I can meet with friends or do a gym class or simply rest up for a few hours knowing she is happy and safe with you guys.
Families and carers will have gained confidence through knowing that their child has been appropriately supported by skilled staff who understand their child’s needs
We have established a staff team that is trained and experienced in working with children and young people with autism and associated conditions. they have built strong and supportive relationships with the beneficiaries and gained significant understanding of their needs. as this is the second year of the project we now have a more stable team of workers, having come through the usual initial phase of building an effective team who now can demonstrate their capacity to work effectively together. this latter is evidenced through positive feedback from them in evaluations as well as the wealth of positive suggestions that they bring to the project.
Feedback from parent of O When O first attended Saturday Adventure Team in May 2018, he was extremely impulsive, unable to concentrate on tasks and struggled with sharing and waiting his turn. Staff have been consistent and persevered in supporting O to manage some of these skills. O showed a preference of playing independently from early on, which is also something the staff have supported him with and encourage peer interaction. The prospect of sharing was very difficult for O to comprehend and could turn into a full-blown meltdown. Often when O is upset this would result in screaming. Staff spent time with O to encourage him to describe his feelings and why he was frustrated. Staff using techniques to show O that they can see that he may be frustrated and upset made O feel although he was being listened to without needing to scream and yell. O struggled to conform to rules and would take toys or knock over game’s children were playing with which lead to other children becoming upset. O is now more able to join in with activities without seeking to engage in negative interaction with peers. Often O showed a preference to play alone, which staff have learned to understand when he would like distance and have time to himself and when he wishes to engage with others. O enjoys being in his own world and when staff embrace this through participating in imaginary play and getting involved in the games he creates; this encourages his social interaction with others. A highlight for Or at Saturday Adventure Team was when he had the opportunity to meet Santa. O took the opportunity to interrogate Santa with lots of questions about how he got there and where his reindeer were. He was still talking about this weeks later on a trip. Saturday Adventure Team has given O the opportunity to express himself in an environment where he feels comfortable. O is an extremely affectionate, creative and funny young person who has managed to build positive relationships with children and staff over the past 2 years. It has been a pleasure to watch O progress and develop valuable skills that will support him in his future.