Social Activities for Young Adults with Additional Support Needs and Challenging Behaviour
A story by Orcadia Creative Learning Centre
We provided a social club on Thursday evenings for isolated young adults with learning difficulties, behavioural difficulties, disabilities and/or additional support needs so they can socialise and participate in a range of different activities at our Centre in Portobello as well as regular outings.
What Social Activities for Young Adults with Additional Support Needs and Challenging Behaviour did
Our Thursday evening young adults social club takes place every week for 50 weeks of the year where club members meet with old friends and have made new ones. We have 20 club members who have use of the centres facilities including the art room, studio, garden, trampolines and cafe where they can chill out with their peers.
The club has an impressive activities and outings programme including trips to the theatre, cinema, restaurants, ten pin bowling, outdoor sports and visits to the park, beach and into town. Activities based at the centre have included Halloween Night, DIY Panto, New Year Disco, Valentine’s Party, Easter Masterchef, Karaoke, Teach Your Skill night, sponsored walk, drama and team building games, BBQ, and soak the staff night (this was a particular favourite)!
All the activities are flexible and adaptable, for example a session may include sensory learning by exploring a variety of materials with touch, sound and smell, a music session may begin with instrument playing and vocal work leading into movement or drama, or perhaps a dance session may inspire a creation of a drawing or painting. Whatever the club members feel they want to do we encourage their creative interests.
The sessions have been tailored to the abilities of the club members within the group and with support from the project workers club members are encouraged to take part in whichever way they feel comfortable exploring, experimenting and developing at their own pace; encouraging independence, confidence and boosting self esteem.
Parents and carers have told us they enjoy having weekly ‘time off’ where they can meet up with friends, go out for a meal or to the cinema, go shopping, or simply have some time at home where they can chill out. A group of parents have arranged to meet weekly when their young adults are attending the club and go for a meal and a catch up with people who understand each others caring responsibilities.
Club members, many of whom have multiple support needs, have had more opportunities to take part in creative and social activities that are fun, stimulating and rewarding.
What Orcadia Creative Learning Centre has learned
The young adults individual needs require that they are looked after almost constantly. Their carers are family members or close friends that do an extraordinarily amount of work to ensure their loved ones can flourish. There comes a point however when one person simply cannot provide all that they would like, especially when it comes to allowing them to socialise and spend time doing fun activities away from home.
The people we help are varied in their specific needs but all are alike in that they have limited opportunities to engage in activities away from their families/carers like any other person would normally do. Despite their learning difficulties, behavioural difficulties, disabilities and/or additional support needs, they need opportunities that the rest of us have to socialise and grow together with their peers. Many club members often have difficulties participating using traditional methods so it is our role to provide specialised techniques and styles that involve all participants to the highest degree possible.
It is important when enrolling new members to maintain the dynamics of the club to do so with care keeping any potential disruption to a minimum and therefore this is done gradually. A delicate approach is the most effective as it helps reduce anxiety of joining a new place and meeting new people; as well as for existing members who can become overwhelmed by change.
We would like to extend the young adults social activities and run a nurture group one evening per month, focusing on preventative emotional health and trauma recovery for 14 young adults aged 21-25 with mild disabilities and mental health issues, many of which have arisen due to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).
How Orcadia Creative Learning Centre has benefitted from the funding
Orcadia will continue to provide multi sensory arts programmes and social opportunities for young people and adults with learning difficulties, physical disabilities and challenging behaviour. In particular we wish to introduce two new projects for which funding will be sought for: Garden Project - Our centre has a garden but we currently do not use it to its full potential. We would like to turn it into a hub of activity where our users can grow flowers, fruit, vegetables and herbs. The benefits of gardening for people with disabilities and long term health conditions have been recognised by the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and the positive effects of horticultural therapy are well documented. For example, it can help develop motor skills and hand dexterity, relieve anxiety, reduce muscle tension, lower blood pressure and build teamwork skills. It can also provide exciting sensory opportunities to our users with conditions such as autism and teach them about the importance of nutrition and knowing where food comes from. Healthy Living Project - We plan to introduce a healthy living project that will provide a safe place for people with disabilities to come along and take part in exercises that have been adapted to suit and learn about healthy eating choices.
40 parents/carers will receive a regular respite break, 40 parents/carers have 3 hours weekly respite for 50 weeks of the year. 40 parents/carers have been able to plan ahead and choose their own activities for 50 weeks of the year.
Young adults with disabilities are limited in the social opportunities that are available to them, affecting their mental health and well-being. For the majority of our club members Orcadia is the only social activity they engage in all week and they really look forward to it. We provide a safe environment where they can come along and meet with their friends and join in fun activities. The enables them to develop their social and communication skills in a safe and supportive environment. Parents/carers and other family members also need time to themselves, especially if they are working full time, are older or have health issues. They want time off but they also want to know the person they care for is also having a good time. The programme of activities is circulated to all parents/carers and many have told us knowing the young adults are in a safe, fun environment helps them to relax during their 'time off' and maintain their quality of life.
The following is a testimonial from the mother of one of our club members who attends the Thursday evening social club and the Photography and Digital Imaging Class, as well as many of our additional social nights. 'Our son Jim has been attending Orcadia since he was 11 years of age, he is now 28, over the years he has gain in confidence, his speech has improved but most importantly his general well-being and his happiness has improved. The art work that is produced is out of this world, and not only Jim gets a great deal of satisfaction from producing it, but his wider family are very proud of his achievements. The young adults club again gives those that attend the most valuable of times, by being with friends and having a social life like any other person of his age. None of this would happen without the conscientious hard working and dedicated staff who work at Orcadia.'
20 young adults with additional support needs and challenging behaviour will have improved communication and social interaction skills.
For many club members there are virtually no choices of activities or places to go to mix with others as many have profound communication problems, it helps them to maintain positive mental health and reduces their social isolation. The environment we provide and the use of different art forms allows them to participate, communicate, be creative, develop or maintain their social interaction skills. Attending provides them with a safe supportive environment and community which hugely enhances their quality of life where they can come along and meet with their friends and join in fun activities. The club enables them to develop their social and communication skills, it helps develop independent living skills, especially as most outings take place at mainstream facilities, and increase self confidence, and self esteem while developing social skills such as cooperation. Wherever possible we take public transport to develop their self travelling skills.
Julie attends the young adults club on Thursday evenings and receives one to one support. Julie’s frontal lobes are not fully activated causing difficulty with language skills and the ability to communicate, impulsive and socially inappropriate behaviour, paranoia, and anxiety. When Julie first joined Orcadia her social worker at the time was not confident that she would be able to cope with such a large group and thought that 3 months would be the maximum she would be able to attend. Julie had been banned from other social clubs and organisations due to her behaviour. In the beginning Julie had difficulty making friends and was very disruptive, shouting out during movie night and good news time she would should derogatory comments to other club members sometimes causing upset. Julie would also show aggressive behaviour towards other club members and staff. Orcadia staff worked closely with Julie’s Mum to ensure continuity with managing her behaviour. She required a lot of understanding, patience and time to build trusting relationships with staff and other club members. She had no meaningful friendships and through creating a calm environment and using her love for art and jewellery making the staff were able to get to know Julie and learn what techniques were best used to enable successful integration into the group (and which ones not to use!). Julie has now been attending for nine months and has made many friendships in the club, some of whom she meets up with for milkshake and cake away from Orcadia. On nights she has not been at the club the other members always look for her and ask if she is okay. Julie now participates in all the activities and outings and recently joined in a sponsored walk to raise funds for club outings. She no longer shouts out during movie night and listens well to other’s good news, and even shares some of her own.
Carers and the people they care for will have improved well-being, a social club for 3 hours every Thursday for 20 young adults for 50 weeks of the year. Taking part in creative and social activities enables the young adults to develop friendships which boosts self confidence.
20 young adults with learning difficulties participated in a varied weekly programme of activities based in the centre, they also enjoyed party nights and monthly outings to various mainstream facilities. All activities aimed to build self confidence, self esteem, independence and a sense of achievement, whilst at the same time having fun. The young adults felt safe and relaxed in their surroundings enabling them to be more confident with improved communication skills. Every three months Club members worked together to decide which activities they would like to take part in and what outings they would like to go on, which informs the clubs programme of activities. We have regularly obtained feedback from club members as well as their carers and family members. Parents/carers were asked to complete a simple questionnaire every three months, the responses to which were collated with verbal feedback, allowing us to evaluate the impact of these activities on their well-being.
Since leaving college four years ago Emma has been very isolated, not socialising and having very few friends. She would lay in bed until 1pm in the day and spend most of her time on the computer or gaming. Orcadia has had a huge impact on her life, she has made new friends and looks forward to meeting up every week with them. She takes part in all the activities and especially enjoys art. She has gained in confidence and self esteem and often meets up with her friends to go to the cinema or bowling.