Summer Respite Holiday
A story by SAMs Charity
SAMs Charity delivered a Summer Respite Holiday to improve the wellbeing and reduce the isolation of children and young people 3-18 years with disabilities and/or multiple additional support needs and their parents/carers.
Through receiving respite each day, parents/carers are better now able to continue coping with/carrying out their caring responsibilities.
What Summer Respite Holiday did
We delivered a 6 day Summer Respite Holiday for vulnerable children/young people 3-18 with disabilities and/or multiple additional support needs and their parents/carers at Wydale Hall in Scarborough.
All activities were chosen prior to the event based on the interests/needs of those supported, with 3 new spaces created using specially-adapted equipment brought with us incl., Soft Play, Quiet, and Sensory Spaces – this ensured children received consistent support from 23 trained volunteers based on their unique needs, incl., 1-to-1 sensory support for those with profound disabilities.
The holiday provided parents/carers with approx. 8 hours of respite each day to help them de-stress, focus on their own wellbeing, and better cope with their continued caring responsibilities – they are unable to otherwise experience this ‘me time’ due to their child’s support needs/financial limitations. During this time parents/carers took part in ‘pamper’ sessions during which they received massages/hairdressing; enjoyed alone time with their partners; and engaged in adult-only activities we organised incl., Bingo Day, Girlie Shopping + Pub & Pool Day for Dads/male Carers, and a Night Out.
During each morning, children and young people engaged in interactive games and/or intensive support in the 3 new spaces set up. During afternoons, children and young people took part in day-outings incl.,to Ten-Pin Bowling, the Cinema for a special-needs film, Crazy Golf, Animal Farm Park, and Alpamare Water Park. We also had a ‘reserve’ of Helpers to provide alternative games, quiet time, etc., as needed. A total of 2,592 volunteer support hours were provided (16 hrs p.p/p.day).
Family-wide activities were delivered each evening during which families could simply enjoy each other’s company– improving family relationships and creating new support networks to reduce their long-term isolation. Activities incl., Special Olympics Day, Fancy Dress/Games Night, Movie Night, and Talent Night during which the confidence of each child and young person grew in front of our eyes from performing their own song, skit, etc., causing parents/carers to cry happy tears to see their child accepted and loved for being themselves.
Unfortunately, however, there is a significant lack of activities available in the local community in which vulnerable children like Child A can engage in fun, stimulating, and rewarding activities due to many local organisations simply lacking the means/ability to provide the 1-to-1 support that unique children like Child A need to reach their true potential.
SAMs Charity strives to be all-inclusive regardless of the challenges faced by the children and young people we support, we sought to ensure that Child A was included in all of the activities delivered over the course of the holiday: providing more opportunities for her to engage in fun, stimulating, and rewarding activities that support her development.
For example, Child A was supported to take part in relay races and other events during our Special Olympics Sports Day by ‘walking’ aided by her volunteer Helper and/or Father (depending on the activity) and by using specially-adapted equipment purchased by SAMs specifically for children like Child A. The smile on Child A’s face resulting from being included/actively-involved in these activities was lovely to witness and her parents were thrilled that she was able to engage in the full range of activities delivered over the course of the 6 day-holiday.
As a result of being included in these activities, Child A’s confidence greatly increased which led to her letting her true personality shine rather than being afraid to be herself as well as more actively engage with the other children with whom she made fast friends: reducing her long-term isolation via the development of new friendships/support networks.
Child A’s parents have advised that this increase in confidence has continue to affect Child A long after the respite holiday ended and that Child A is now happier and more determined to overcome the impossible. This is only 1 example of the many ways children and young people with disabilities/multiple additional support needs benefit from the provision of an all-inclusive respite holiday.
Without this unique service, these vulnerable children and young people would not otherwise have access to all-inclusive services in which they can be overcome barriers faced in their day-to-day lives, be themselves, have fun, make friends with others, and experience improved self-worth, wellbeing, and long-term quality of life.
The respite holiday offered the entire family a chance to relax, forget about their day-to-day challenges, improve their wellbeing and inter-family relationships via fun, family-wide activities, and develop new/strong support networks with others experiencing similar challenges: improving their quality of life. Although it can be difficult for parents like the Parents B to truly enjoy themselves away from their kids, Parents B were confident that their children were safe/well cared for as they engage in our separate Children’s Club and know that our Helpers receive comprehensive information relating to their children’s unique needs.
In this connection, the Parents B received 8 hours of ‘ME’ time/respite each day, enabling the parents to spend quality time with one another, take part in ‘pamper’ sessions which helped them de-stress, and engage in parent/carer only activities via which they interacted/made friends with other parents/carers. As a result, Parents B experienced improved mental health and wellbeing, enabling them to better cope with/continue carrying out their caring responsibilities.
During this time, the 5 children took part in a wide variety of interactive activities and day outings to local attractions that they would otherwise be excluded from due to their needs. As the respite holiday is a unique opportunity for them to simply be their true selves in a safe, inclusive environment, the children were able to come out of their shells and simply be themselves, resulting in them making new friends, increasing their confidence via trying new activities, and developing new social/communication skills via active interaction with a diverse group of kids.
After the holiday, the mother commented that they felt better able to continue coping with their responsibilities and that “I don’t know what I would do without SAMs. This is the only break we get.” The children reported feeling free to express themselves for the first time and that they were not afraid to take part in group activities as they knew they’d be accepted.
During our respite holiday, we provided 23 parents/carers with the respite they desperately need to sustain their caring role, with a combined 1,104 hours of respite provided over the 6 days during which parents/carers were supported to relax/forget about the day-to-day challenges faced, focus on their own wellbeing, spend quality time with their partner, and develop strong friendships/new support networks.
The development of new support networks is a key benefit of our respite holiday as it brings together a diverse group of families and supports them to share their experiences, find new solutions to challenges by discussing what has/hasn’t worked, and share/receive peer support. As a result of the support networks developed, parents/carers and their children feel better supported in the wider community and experience improved resilience and reduced isolation.
SAMs Charity also provided parents/carers with a range of information/advice that they may not otherwise have access to due to the perceived lack of support in our local community. This included information regarding specially-adapted equipment/individual grant programmes, tips/routines to help them better support their child’s development/manage behavioural problems arising from their child’s additional support needs, and local support options.
As a result, parents/carers improved their awareness of the support available both outwith and within the Project and how they can access this support, i.e., provision of our on-going Children’s Clubs, new parent/carer peer support sessions, and emergency respite sitting for parents/carers who need urgent support to better cope with their caring responsibilities.
Feedback received after the holiday ended proves that the comprehensive information/advice, much-needed respite, and the opportunity/support to develop new support networks received has been invaluable in helping parents/carers continue coping with/carrying out their responsibilities, for example: “The holiday has been amazing! K absolutely loved meeting and making new friends. It was great that specially adapted equipment was at hand so that she could participate in the same games as everyone else.
For me, it’s a safe environment where the children and young people can let off steam and have fun without being judged by others for their needs/disabilities. This is such a great opportunity to talk with other parents about issues that affect and worry us. Spending time with other carers has helped put things in perspective and given me new ideas to try at home to further support K. Thank you so much.”
What SAMs Charity has learnedFunding enabled SAMs Charity to host the largest annual Summer Respite Holiday yet, with 30% more people in attendance in 2017 than ever before. This greatly improved our ability to deliver a wide range of positive activities to improve the wellbeing of children/young people with disabilities/multiple additional support needs and respite opportunities to help their parents/carers continue coping with/carrying out their caring responsibilities.
Funding also enabled us to increase the adult-only activities organised for parents/carers, enabling us to holistically support each parent/carer using a multi-faceted service. This included a series of new ‘pamper’ sessions in which parents/carers received massages/hairdressing, offering new opportunities/ways for them to focus on/improve their own wellbeing.
Parents/Carers reported that this new activity helped them to greatly de-stress and relieve the tension built up over time as a result of caring with a child(ren) with complex support needs. We also delivered a new Girlie Shopping Outing + Pub & Pool Day for Dads/male carers which also proved a great success by enabling mums/female-carers and dads/male-carers a chance to bond with/make friends with others outwith the family unit whilst taking part in an enjoyable activity.
In combination with other grants received towards delivering our 2017 Summer Respite Holiday, funding secured also enabled SAMs Charity to purchase a variety of specially-adapted equipment to ensure that the support provided better met the unique/multiple needs of each child. This included purchasing Upsee Harnesses and Gait Trainers to enable children with severe neuromuscular disabilities/issues to stand/walk on their own with support; tactile learning books; coordination toys; soft seating options for children in constant pain; and more.
We also secured separate grants worth thousands of pounds which enabled us to purchase 2 x Safespaces to enable children/young people with profound disabilities that can’t use standard seating/sleeping options to go on their very first family holiday. Designed to be both an activity and sleeping space for children with profound disabilities, extremely limited mobility, and/or additional health problems. The Safespace enabled us to both increase the opportunities available for multiple children to engage in fun, stimulating, and rewarding activities as well as improved our ability to provide the 1-to-1 support each child needed. It also enabled the children’s parents/carers to experience respite for the very first time ever – improving their mental health and supporting them to continue coping with/carrying out their caring responsibilities.