TEENS+ Short Breaks
A story by Sleep Scotland (TEENS+)
We have delivered mainly short breaks of 3 – 6 hours in the evenings or weekends. Students go with a befriender on a 1:1 basis or in small social groups. We encourage age appropriate activities that the students select e.g.
• Day trips using public transport.
• Folk clubs, circus, café, restaurants.
• Swimming with trips to try out different pools.
• Walks around Edinburgh; Arthur’s Seat, Botanic Gardens.
• Pub meals hopefully preceded by some shopping for that latest glittery nail varnish or must-have magazine!
• Arts and Crafts events e.g. painting ceramic birds.
• Weekend in Glasgow with a packed schedule of concerts and meals.
Communication, Life Skills and Physical Wellbeing. The short breaks are created following consultation and requests from students and parents and offer individual breaks, group breaks and some overnight breaks. The short breaks are for fun whilst building on the students’ skills in independence - putting them in control of their short breaks. Parents are encouraged to use the time for themselves, to have fun too.
Tip 1:1. Find out what your clients want and like. And how they express what they don’t want or like.
Tip 2:2. Parents/carers communicate in different ways so find out what works best for each person and use that method. We have some parents who hate email, some who love it. Text works for some but certainly not for others. Phone, letters, face to face meetings, groups, formal settings, informal settings have all been used too.
Tip 3:3. Set high standards and maintain them. Start modestly and build the service gradually. Make sure you recruit good people, train them correctly and ensure they have adequate support and guidance.
Alex is high on the autistic spectrum and dislikes change which can lead to challenging behavior. For a year, we tried to get him onto Better Breaks. A new project worker and Alex shared a love of swimming and eventually Alex’s Mum agreed he could take part in Better Breaks. Alex now has a Friday routine that he loves. A swim, snack, chat and home – with his friend. According to his sister “Alex never talks about people but he talks about Tony and swimming. He actually looks forward to Fridays”.
David is at TEENS+ and is full of energy and mischief. The light summer evenings make him even livelier, much to the dismay of his parents. Wednesday evenings saw David and his befriender tick off Edinburgh’s historic sights. David loved it, got rid of his energy and a good night’s sleep was had by all.
“Better Breaks weekday cover was mentioned and we think a Wednesday would be good so we can go to the films. A wonderful service, so many thanks.”
“Thanks Diane. The Easter holiday cover was very much enjoyed by us all it has meant I have had much more of a relaxed holiday preparation time than usual!”
“Amazing Diane, so grateful to you and everyone involved with better breaks, don't know what we would have done without your help this summer.”
Sally works full time as a teacher and her son is at TEENS+. Throughout the year, Sally has gradually allowed Brian and his befriender to reduce their reliance on her and now is more than happy to go out for a glass of wine with her friends knowing that Brian will be returned home safely. She now trusts Better Breaks to try different activities knowing that whatever happens, Brian is safe.
Regular, dependable, flexible, brief breaks reduce pressure on the family as they have time for appointments, chores or hobbies. Financial commitments can be made e.g. gym subscriptions, in the knowledge that the money will not be wasted. Parents are motivated to do more. Short breaks allow family tensions to be defused and allows independence to flourish.
We observe how the students interact with each other and will organize short breaks that allow friendships to grow. One of our students now emails the Better Breaks Coordinator directly to arrange her outings and has developed very clear and good email etiquette. A young woman with her own wishes who can organize her life.
One parent said that they liked Better Breaks because it was different from statutory respite where “we never know what he’s done or who he has been with”. Some statutory provision is withdrawn at 18 years old and Better Breaks provides a very welcome service that is tailored to each individual. TEENS+ Better Breaks also finish at the end of an activity – if the film finishes later or it’s time for a coffee, the befriender phones the parents to let them know and the break continues to its natural finish.
Friendships are vital for these young people. We see where there are sparks of friendship and encourage this by organizing outings where students go out with their friends in a social group. We know parents well enough now to suggest outings that further promote friendship.
It’s difficult for some parents to see how they can use the service even when we can see how they would benefit. We just have to keep trying and be patient. That said, we have seen parents rely on us more, ask for more breaks, try different arrangement of breaks and really engage with is to organize short breaks that are perfect for their family. Our students too support Better Breaks. “Carol always knows when it’s Thursday, her Better Breaks Day”.
We also include Better Breaks in our TEENS+ leaflets, literature and websites which are distributed to social workers, health professionals, parent and carers of prospective students. TEENS+ main service now has a waiting list and access to Better Breaks is viewed very favourably.
We would like to reach out further, to help other young people and their families. At this time, due to project workload and funding levels we cannot take on this activity. However, next year we may be better placed to do this either directly or by helping other groups to do so. We will talk this through next year.
2. Feedback sheets/reports for activities. This describes what was done, what went well and what did not go well. Student feedback is also recorded.
3. Observation and recording i.e. what was a person’s reaction to a particular activity.
4. Smiley faces / Unhappy faces. The students are always asked to give their views.
5. Parents’ meetings. We try and hold regular parents’ meetings but to add Better Breaks to the agenda of more general meetings or else attendance is poor. At one such event, which was primarily to show parents new premises, it was great to see them sit with their coffee and cake and have a good old blether amongst themselves.
6. Regular phone calls to parents. We now know the parents well and can easily chat with them. This way we find out how they are coping and what their views on short breaks are.
7. Team meetings and supervision sessions. The befrienders have an opportunity to discuss their experiences and share knowledge around the team.
8. Emails. We keep all parents emails as it helps us assess all aspects of the project.