Ski Club Foreign Trip
A story by Kaimes Special School Association (KSSA)
We provided a ski trip to France for 10 children from our after school ski club in winter 2018. This gave them an amazing experience and enabled them to develop their skiing and an array of skills for life whilst their families get respite from their caring role for a week.
What Ski Club Foreign Trip did
The activities our group participated in were primarily alpine skiing and they took place in the town of Le Corbier in the Savoie region of France in March 2018.
The children at both Woodlands and Kaimes schools come from a diverse range of social/ economic backgrounds and therefore we initially offered the trip to everyone who is involved in our Friday after-school ski club (approx. 20+ skiers).
There were positive responses from 15 parents and then eventually the number reduced to 10 pupils (5 from each school). At this point there was a mix of single & dual parent families as well as 2 'cared for' children who wished to go.
The feedback from carers before and after the trip was varied as what they used their time for when the children were not at home. This ranged from short holiday/ break, some 'me -time', decorating their child's room or simply dedicating a little more time to the other siblings in their family.
Due to the irregular snow fall in Scotland at times, we had decided to take a couple of trips to an indoor skiing facility, Snow Factor, to allow the children an experience of real snow and a simulated outdoor and very cold environment. This proved a very positive experience for all of the ski club skiers and not just those travelling to France, so much so, we have included this as a regular outing at least twice a year.
We believe our trip encompassed several of the priority areas during the build up to the trip, during the course of the week and beyond. Examples are: we have several children who have quite complex needs and some from ethnic backgrounds and this gave them a chance at succeeding at a very physical sporting challenge, living away independently of their carers at a time when most of them will be soon leaving school.
The resort/ hotel/ staff/ resort were all better than we had expected. The whole project seemed a bit rushed because of the timings of the grant and not being able to give a final costing for parents and more so carers of children in care where every 'penny spent' has to be accounted for obvious reasons. In short the there were no major hiccups/ delays to cause any great strife among the children or adults - it went to plan!
What Kaimes Special School Association (KSSA) has learned
Organising any large venture for two organisations can be a challenge. The planning/budgeting aspect was quite tricky because we are two quite different schools and the communication can be difficult at times between myself and other sets of parents/ staff. When we met each week for skiing we managed to iron out any small or large problems that had occurred during the week. Also, the company we used to deliver the short break we had used before, so this made the admin side of things a lot easier to deal with. They also had a good understanding of 'where we come from' are far as our needs, etc. were concerned.
Communicating to staff and pupils at both school and also the parents back home had been an issue in the past as some of the children had not been away from home at all. We solved this by posting as much as possible on Twitter along with pictures and videos of the weeks activities.
A group of competent and confident pupils (skiers) from both schools will have visited/ accessed a foreign ski resort.
The project was 100% achieved thanks in no small part to the funding of the grant from Better Breaks, some of the additional fundraising by the KSSA and of course the commitment from all 10 of the children's carers to trust in us to take their children to another country to ski.
Pupil A from Woodlands was a very reluctant skier at first and it was a constant battle to continue to get him to attend and of course improve to the point where he wasn't falling over/ crashing a lot of the time. He had zero confidence in his ability at succeeding at something. However, we persevered and he eventually caught up with his peers that he had started skiing at the same time with. The next stage was convincing him to follow the natural progression path to skiing on real snow. This was a hard sell as he had not travelled abroad before never mind been on a plane. As his skiing became quite competent he out-of-the-blue announced he would like to try going to France; he became our No. 10. We showed photos/ video footage of the previous trip where a couple of his school friends had already attended and he was totally sold on the idea. It would be a physical challenge for him but he was animated/ excited about the whole new adventure. Travelling with friends and staff he enjoyed being with. The journey to/ from France went without a hitch and he coped well it, also, the hotel: getting ready and kitted out wasn't a problem once he had his routine and accommodation sorted. The next issue was the actual skiing for 4-5 hours every day for 6 days in varying weather conditions e.g. extreme cold/ wet/ bad visibility/ varying terrain. This was was a struggle at the start for him as the conditions were very variable from the beginning. He soon got into his stride and it became another (enjoyable) routine. He also enjoyed the 'camaraderie' after dinner; hanging out with staff in front of the TV or pool table and just chatting. Towards the end of the week we streamed the children into two separate groups to allow them to progress at their own pace and this definitely helped everyone especially pupil A. On his return and back to normal Friday after-school skiing, he was clearly not only a more able skier but a confident individual with much better communication skills.
Carers of disabled children and young people (and those they care for) will have improved well-being
From the feedback at the time either during the course of the trip on social media or from parents directly as they were collecting their child from the airport/ bus station. They were relieved and happy their child was back but they also had a chance to relax themselves without the constant pressure put upon them as a carer for a child with additional support needs.
The most obvious choice for this was a family who took a fairly relaxed and carefree holiday in northern Scotland without their son. They had taken it upon themselves to try to learn to ski without telling their son. They spent 5 days near Aviemore with their other child and had several ski lessons as a family. Ultimately, this was to try and share in the delight this activity gave to their son and maybe in the future travel as a family unit doing an activity they would all benefit from. Since their son's return from the ski trip they have, with some success, attempted to ski together at the artificial ski centre near Edinburgh. The pupil leaves school this summer for part-time college work so only time will tell if he and they will continue this activity together.
Carers will have more opportunities to live a life outside of caring
I believe this trip has made a very positive impact on several of our students and their cares because they have enabled a sense of independence in the children that was not apparent before. They have travelled abroad, coped well in a self-reliant way without their carers and returned to be in certain ways self sufficient e.g. readying themselves for skiing/ school and choosing their own food form the kitchen buffet.
Pupil C is a boy with Autism Spectrum Disorder and multiple support and medical needs. He is fit and healthy for his age and thoroughly enjoys skiing. This was his second ski trip abroad with the school and his parents used this opportunity to holiday themselves in the UK for the period of our trip. He coped well the structure of each day being very similar (apart from the journey to/ from the ski resort) with meals and ski lessons being at the same time each day. There was also the potential issue of readying himself each day for the 'slopes' e.g thermal ware, sunscreen, glasses/ goggles, helmet, salopettes, ski boots, jacket, gloves, etc. This time around, however, he coped really well with all of this and the need to take on more food/ calories and going to bed early. This did not prove a problem after Day 1 - for all the children! Since his return and back to normal routines (after school skiing included), he has taken on the role of dressing, etc. himself with very little problems and very little prompting. He also communicates better with staff if he is experiencing problems. And the family have informed they are planning their first trip abroad because of the improvements they have seen and also his new love of aeroplanes!
Better attendance at, or cooperation with the school regarding their child e.g. parents’ nights, school events and feeling more comfortable with talking and listening to their child positives/ negatives without being unduly stressed.
As one of the ski instructors to the children, I notice those who attend each week or come to the visits at the indoor artificial skiing in Glasgow. So I believe this has had a positive influence on the students albeit in a cause and effect way.
One child on the autistic spectrum lives for Fridays when it's time for skiing, such has been his enthusiasm since returning from France. He was desperate to see himself on video footage he had either filmed himself (selfie-stick) or by the staff. "Have I improved? Oh no not another fall!" And then the final trailer and subsequent movie of the ski trip which can be viewed on Kaimes School Website. This has ultimately taken a great deal of stress away from his mother about going to a school in general and usually good attendance and behaviour is a prerequisite to attending the after school ski club. So the situation is effectively a win, win.
Continued active participation in skiing from children and possible parents who want/or have already have skied before. E.g. using Scottish ski centres
We now have siblings of children (young and old) and parents, who are now trying skiing for the first time as well as several staff from both schools as they see the positive impact it's having.
Pupil C is a 17 year female student who has been skiing for over 3 years and is has been in care for a great deal of her life. She has Autistic Spectrum Disorder and exhibits a great deal of the traits associated with this condition. However, when she puts on a pair of skis, it is just magical to watch how graceful and elegant and easy she makes it look. This trip was her second with the school and she just lives for Fridays when she is able to ski in a safe and cared for environment, she is very chatty and on very friendly terms with the staff at Midlothian Snowsports Centre who are more than happy to interact with her and all of our pupils. Her fervour for skiing at Snow Factor in Glasgow or a rainy day at Glenshee is that of a true enthusiast. She regularly skies outside of term time with carers from the care home in Edinburgh where she currently resides.
Participation in residential program which is part of the whole school ODE curriculum plus extra-curricular sports
Better general uptake in school sports at their own schools, during and after school and at inter-school events including participation in Duke of Edinburgh/John Muir awards.
The whole group of skiers at both of the schools (even those not on the ski trip) have definitely shown a keener interest in other sports/ activities, ODE participation or in attending after school events since beginning skiing. There are many reasons we believe this is so but the main one is independence. By this we mean, after mastering the basics in skiing you are not so much reliant on other people because you can ski on your own. Whereas if you are part of say a football/ basketball team where there is a reliance on other people to take part. Many of the children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder can be'loners' and interact better with the adults present than their peers. However, by merely taking part and becoming competent in this sport, this has allowed them to gain confidence in joining in with other activities be it sport or otherwise. Also they are becoming more inclined to spend some time away from their carers at potential weekend/ week long residentials.