The Yard Youth Clubs
A story by The Yard Adventure Centre
We provided youth clubs for disabled young people aged 12-18. The weekly clubs each ran for 2.5 hours every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
They had the dual benefit of providing a much needed social and development opportunity for the young people attending whilst giving their family a much needed break and time to themselves.
What The Yard Youth Clubs did
The past year has been another busy one for The Yard and the young people who attend. The staffing has mainly remained the same apart from one of our sessional staff Max joined the core team and as a result is now a regular fixture in our clubs. We have also been fortunate to have the support of 7 excellent volunteers across all the three clubs. This year, 57 young people have attended the clubs, 10 of them attended for the first time this past year and the remaining continued from previous years.
Most of the new young people who have joined this year have settled in well to their new clubs. One young person who joined the girls club is currently looking to move to another one of the groups as the dynamics of this club don’t fit her needs. She will visit the other two clubs over the coming weeks with her Mum and work out what would be the best group for her to join.
The Clubs took place at our Centre in Eyre Place Lane in Edinburgh and on average the clubs had one to two trips out each month and the remaining activities took place in house. Some of the most popular trips out this year have been to Ryze Trampoline Centre, train trips to North Berwick and Aberdour and picnics, bowling, cinema trips and festival and Christmas Market visits. In house we have had a lot of creative arts and crafts nights with t-shirt making, clay modelling and painting, and also visits from Street dance company, a gardening project, lots of water games and karaoke nights.
The parents consistently feedback that they use the break to catch up on jobs around the house or shopping, spend one one time with their other children, exercise or just spend time with their partner or friend without interruptions. The feedback from carers is that they are using the break to catch up on jobs around the house or shopping, spend one on one time with their other children, exercise or just spend some time with their partner or friend without interruptions.
Emma relies heavily on her wheelchair, she can come out of her chair with adult support and crawl and move around on the ground without assistance. She particularly likes to get out of her chair during some part of the Club for example to access the soft play and blue swing. Emma particularly loves the challenging blue swing which turns and swings very high. She screams with delight as the other girls swing her high and round and round, the higher the better for Emma. Her laugh is contagious.
She also enjoys listening to the girls and all their chat, we all gather at the start of club and tell each other what we have been up to, good or bad. Emma loves sharing her weekly news with the girls. Whether it a new purchase or an outing that she has been to. Since Emma joined the club, we have seen her flourish, her mum tells us she doesn’t stop talking about what she has done and the excitement she expresses all week in anticipation for the next club. Emma has made friends with many of the girls.
Outings are a particular favourite of Emma, we have been to the pantomime and festival fringe shows. Emma thoroughly enjoys live performances; we try and get seats right up close. However one of her favourite Yard experiences is getting a Massage with Jen our visiting therapist, Emma never says no to a full head, shoulder and foot massage! .
Anna has come on leaps and bounds since accessing the club, it had been difficult for her parents to find opportunities that Anna could engage with that didn’t end badly quite quickly, and in groups it has often been impossible to work out what went wrong because Anna can’t communicate things that are emotional clearly. So in those terms, the simple fact that Anna has been a regular attender of the club for two years is truly amazing!
At first Anna did struggle to settle but she is now a well-known part of the group and anticipates and looks forward to her Tuesday evenings, occasionally telling her parents what she did, which is a brilliant step. The continuity of volunteers (Sian in particular) has been key to Anna being confident to come and stay and the outings have been brilliant for her.
The variety of sessions is really helping Anna to have fun without one of her parents being present, which is key when you’re a teenager!! The trips to the cinema, going to a show in the festival and just hanging out with friends are a massive leap for Anna becoming an independent teenager and she looks forward to them all week.
The club has been so great for Anna and her whole family, the club is the only session Anna accesses outside of school without Mum or Dad. It enables Anna’s parents to relax and spend time with her three siblings. Anna and her family live out in Kirkliston and due to the rush hour traffic are almost always late arriving, but they make it a priority. The Yard is priceless to us.
The Yard is an amazing place. My son has been attending since he was 4 years old, he is nearly 17 and loves it as much today as when he started. He gets so much from the Thursday Teen Club and he cannot manage mainstream clubs so having the Thursday club is an absolute godsend.
Sam has become less fearful of new experiences and enjoys all the activities on offer to him. His confidence levels have sky rocketed since joining the club and he now feels confident to talk to someone if he is worried about an activity and the staff are then able to encourage him and provide him with more information to enable him to participate. He often ends up loving the thing he was so worried about initially!!
Sam loves the fact that the Thursday club is his club and it lets him go and meet his friends to do all of the regular things that teenagers do. As his mum, I know that he gets fed up of going to the cinema with his mum, the Thursday club allows him his freedom and independence to do things with his friends.
The club benefits my family in two ways, it provides me with some much needed and much enjoyed time to do our own thing, and knowing that, if it is a bad week, Thursday will be here and everyone will have time to re-group. Secondly the enjoyment Sam gets from “going to the club with his friends” with no parents fussing over him, giving him the opportunity to be independent, is also a massive plus.
When Sam is at the club, I can relax and, for a short while I do not need to worry about whether he is okay. I know 100% that he is being well cared for and having fun. This gives me time to recharge my batteries and de-stress.
Sam has never tired of The Yard and looks forward to it every week he is a great ambassador and will tell everyone about his club. Recently, due to his improved confidence and cheeky personality he was able to join The Yard at their 30th Birthday Celebration Parliamentary Reception and was a huge hit telling all the guests about his Thursday session.
What The Yard Adventure Centre has learnedDemand for our Clubs remains higher than places we have available which is always a challenge for us. We are keen to manage expectations and keep our families informed. We have waiting lists that families can join and we keep families informed of where they are in relation to a place on a regular basis. We do this by sending update cards to the young person and letting them know where they are on the list. This acts in two ways as it keeps people informed and lets them know that we haven’t forgotten about them, but it also acts as a reminder for our families as sometimes there circumstances change and they no longer can attend on a certain night.
We have looked at many ways to involve the young people in our service delivery and this year we looked to set up a young person’s voice who could meet regularly. However when we spoke to the young people they felt that they didn’t need this as the staff already listened to their ideas. So instead of a formal group, we now have formalised the checking in section at the start of our clubs and once a month we now do a quick session on ideas, so that we are always adding new activities that the young people have suggested.
Managing Transitions continues to be a key area for our staff team. We spend a lot of time supporting young people with visits to the Club before they start and also at the other end in supporting young people to move onto a new Club or if appropriate to exit The Yard into another service. We find that this investment really supports the young person and their family at a time which is often quiet worrying because of the change.
We also spend a lot of time on supporting dynamics within the group and as part of reflective practice at the end of the session we discuss dynamics and friendships to ensure that we are aware and support these whilst at The Yard.