Teens+ Befriending Short Breaks
A story by Sleep scotland Teens+
We provided activities for young adults with complex learning and communication disabilities and autism.
The programme offered opportunities to participate in activities that will continue to the development of life skills, experience new social settings and new life experiences encouraging personal development and growth towards independence.
What Teens+ Befriending Short Breaks did
12 TEENS+ staff members have since been incorporated into the short break programme. The programme was offered to families via means of letters, questionnaires and meetings in person. The families approached were those within the TEENS+ service and on the waiting list. Families were chosen based on having no to minimal funding for support during holiday periods and who wished for the opportunity for a break and for their young person to have further opportunities and informal support.
Each student was offered 2-3 sessions per holiday week at 4 hours of a day time period. Sessions began and ended at a central base for drop-off and collection. During sessions however community amenities and resources were accessed and visited. During the breaks carers took the new time available to them to access sport, leisure, rest and relaxation and quality family time with other family members or complete daily tasks which were otherwise difficult.
They were also supported to address difficult tasks, issues and activities that had often been challenging with their young person. In addition the breaks also provided the carers the opportunity to increase their capacity to engage with those they cared for such as accessing a new club or group together. During the breaks those cared for, with the support of staff accessed sport, leisure, recreational and life-skill activities. Activities were chosen based on the young people’s interests and in line with continuing their learning from Individual Learning Plans from TEENS+. Young people had the opportunity to increase social skills, sense of independence and learn new skills as well as having lots of fun.
Through Creative Breaks Tim had the opportunity to go out with staff who have a comprehensive knowledge of his needs and skills in using specific and tailored communication tools (PEC’s). The consistency and relationship Tim has with staff enables Tim to feel comfortable as staff understand him. In any difficult situations during Creative Breaks, staff were aware of how to effectively use re-directional tools that supported Tim in a positive manner with little to no distress. This happened on a few occasions, such as being stuck in traffic or during a busy trip to Camera Obscura visitor attraction.
These such trips and outings have been a positive step in giving Tim the opportunity to try new activities that may seem risky or difficult but have then given him to opportunity to manage and develop some coping strategies. This also proved an encouraging step for Tim’s mum. Tim’s mum was encouraged by Tim’s progress and engagement in outings which increased her confidence and understanding of his needs. An additional result whereby she had the confidence to allow him to try more things in the future, she developed and gained trust in staff through this service, seeing and hearing about the positive feedback from the Creative Breaks sessions.
The break and freedom to access time out of the house, without worrying for Tim has proved invaluable for her own life. Improved positive mental health as well as talking and communicating with staff to work through difficulties with Tim effectively. Tim’s mum was then eager to try similar outings with Tim that she would have otherwise avoided. Ultimately the point of contact with staff reassured Tim’s mum that she was not alone in dealing with challenging behaviours and that staff also encountered this. The encouragement to Tim’s mum increased her confidence and self-esteem in trying new things with her son and strengthening their relationship.
As part of the Creative Breaks service a staff member from Teens+ provided day support for the family through spending time with Donald and engaging him in activities that he enjoyed. This gave both parents the opportunity to have a break from recent events and vitally some quality time together with other children as well as personal time to relax with hobbies that they enjoyed. The staff member was able to observe Donald’s behaviour in accordance with their prior knowledge, understanding of and relationship with him. As a result staff and the family were able to work together to begin to develop strategies to support Donald and respond to his needs. To gain an insightful and in-depth understanding and to ensure Donald received consistency this staff member became a point of contact for the parents.
As well as a point of reference for clinical and professionals meetings where the staff member contributed in an educated and informative manner regarding the changes in Donald’s behaviour. This information was then shared with other staff members at Teens+ who collectively further developed strategies for supporting Donald whilst at Teens+, at home and in the community. Both parents have acknowledged the responsive support and consistent approach that both they and Donald received during such a difficult time which may not have been possible without the Creative Breaks service and flexible approach to provide a short break.
In addition to this Eve entered into a sexual relationship. This raised mother’s anxiety as she was concerned that Eve was unable to make positive decisions for mental health and emotional well being or take precautions for physical safety. Eve’s mother raised this as a concern with TEENS+ and requested assistance. Creative Breaks was identified as the targeted means of informal intervention to guide the family. Eve was partnered with a highly skilled member of staff who has in-depth knowledge and understanding in this field.
Initially time was spent building on the relationship and thus the time together established a strong level of trust for Eve. To ensure Eve gained understanding and knowledge to make informed choices an Individual Learning Plan was developed to address the issues affecting Eve taking into account her experiences, wishes and safety. This was implemented gradually and Eve’s mother was engaged with the process. Clear communication was maintained by staff who worked directly with Eve’s mother to gain full understanding.
Information was shared with Eve and delivered in agreement. Over time Eve’s mother found that their relationship had improved, Eve was opening up and talking to her mum. Mum expressed that Eve seemed more confident and able to talk openly and comfortably about issues affecting her. This was a breakthrough for the family. Eve also felt comfortable discussing sensitive topics with the staff member which ultimately led to Eve agreeing to attend a sexual health screening and understanding the importance of this.
Eve remained honest and open about this with her mother. With the input from the Creative Breaks service Eve was empowered to talk about her situation with her mother. Eve also opened up about her feelings and worries, ultimately strengthening their relationship. Eve’s mother has since acknowledged the input and expressed her gratitude for having the opportunity to rely on trusted staff members. The process had increased her capacity as a parent and confidence in raising a young woman.
What Sleep scotland Teens+ has learnedA real difference the fund has made was that it increased our capacity as a service to focus on individual skills & concentrate on what is important for young people. It has also provided us an opportunity to transition skills students have gained from TEENS to home and vice-versa through working on student Individual Learning Plans.
Unexpected challenges that we faced was the extensive planning required for the longer holiday periods where families encountered greater difficulties, this was addressed through implementing solution focused approaches and working in partnership with the families.
An unexpected benefit for families was that as a result of accessing this creative breaks programme a number of sustainable initiatives were developed. The staff input and presence at professionals meetings as well as family feedback re the value of the additional support a greater understanding of the young person and whole family’s needs was established. As a result funds were allocated or redirected to include this for future holiday periods.
The fund has enabled students to spend time with a peer who knows them. Someone that they trust and chose to spend time with and enjoy activities together, again at the students choice. It has reassured us as a service that our staff members are highly regarded by the young people and involving young people in decision making processes leads to much of the success of the sessions we run. This has allowed us to personalise and tailor make the service.
Parents can use time to plan & do what they want without being concerned about their child & know that they are with a responsible adult who they trust and can enjoy time with.