The Yard Youth Clubs
A story by The Yard Adventure Centre
We have delivered three Fun and Friendship Youth Clubs every week enabling 37 young people aged 12-18 with additional support needs to attend a weekly social club.
The Clubs ran Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings as planned and enabled young people to attend a weekly social experience independently of their parents/carers and enjoy building friendships and new fun activities.
At the same time, their parents enjoyed the regular break from their caring responsibilities and had the opportunity to spend quality time with their partners, friends, or with their other children.
The Clubs were to run every Monday. Tuesday and Thursday evenings 50 weeks of the year and would have the dual benefit of providing much needed social and development opportunities for the young people attending, whilst giving their parents and family a much needed break and time to themselves.
Tip 1:Be responsive to the needs of the group. Originally we envisaged a maximum of 12 young people in each Club, however we need to adapt this based on the needs of the individuals within the Club.
We are intending to expand the number of young people in our girls club from January 2014 from 12 to 14 girls as the needs of the group allow us to increase the numbers without changing the group dynamic.
Tip 2:Build strong relationships with the parents,carers of the young people who attend. Keeping regular contact and providing informal feedback at the start and end of our Club nights helps the parents build confidence in the service and the staff involved.
Sharing information and tactics with the parents/carers is so valuable to the staff's ability to provide consistency for each young person and also hear their suggestions on what they would like moving forward.
We also asked parents to feedback more formally twice a year and that helps ensure that we are able to listen to feedback and implement any suggested changes within a short time frame.
Tip 3:Consulting with the young people about ideas and activities and getting them to take a lead in the planned activities. This provides a feeling of ownership which not only makes the activities run smoother, but helps the young people build in confidence and self esteem.
The young people at The Yard feel real pride and ownership in their Clubs and feel actively consulted and a part of the decision making process. This also helps build a stronger working relationship between the young people and the staff and volunteer team.
In addition, in house we have had karaoke nights, den building, lantern making, archery, pendulum art, barbecues and camp fires, zumba nights, discos, baking nights to name just a few. Over the summer the clubs also enjoyed new experiences. The young people enjoyed a hot tub experience with mocktails in our solar dome one week, a therapy night and a visit from Edinburgh Leisure who gave a healthy lifestyle talk.
Some of the feedback that the young people have given us is: they love The Yard as they get to see all their friends and the staff. Others stated that it is great to have their own club like their brothers/sisters. Parents have informed us that their children are more social and confident as a result of being able to access our regular clubs.
Importantly for parents, they are also more relaxed as they know that their children are safe and happy and that they trust the staff team at The Yard to deal with any situations that may arise in a professional way.
Some of the direct quotes from parents are; 'I have enjoyed some much needed respite', ' Sometimes money is going to waste, but this money is working because, when I drop my son at The Yard, after that I have no worries, this is my relaxing time.',
'It has given me time to spend with my younger son, and other members of the family', ' I can relax knowing that my son is enjoying interaction with others outside our family in a safe environment where activities and supervision will be appropriate to his stage of development. I also get the time to spend quality time with other family members'.
' My son has become more independent. At the club he gets the opportunity to try out activities, that he wouldn't otherwise get to try, eg bread making, pottery'. My son has been able to practice his independence skills travelling on his own to the club, which has helped boost his confidence'.
'My daughter is eager to go to the club, she looks forward to Tuesday evenings, whereas before it was difficult to get her to attend social events as I think she felt she didn't fit in. She has made friends who she chats about at home and it really made my day to come to collect her from The Yard, and see her sitting gossiping with her friends!'.
The families themselves benefit greatly from knowing that their children are happy and making friends, which in turn also improves their wellbeing.
For example, one young person who is non verbal enjoys playing in our stream and any water based activities, so we ensure that we integrate this into our programme. We tailor the level of support for each young person to ensure that they get the most out of the Club.
In some situations, where additional medical support or assistance is required we have ensured that support is available through a carer.
Friendships help build confidence, self esteem, independence and social skills, which in turn have powerful knock-on effects on home and school lives and on the transition to adulthood.
Feedback from their families included:' Before attending the Club my son had no opportunity to play with his peers other than at home. The Club allows the kids some independence. He has gained so much confidence since starting the Club. 'My son is now socialising with other children & adults now, he is normally very insular and reluctant to communicate.
' The Yard is our daughters social life, her self confidence has greatly increased and she will chat to us about her friends.
The sheer volume of demand continues to be a challenge, as their really are very few opportunities for young people their age and older to engage in social opportunities. In January we will open up our Girls Club to 3 new girls and 2 more young people will join our Thursday night Club, which will help reduce our waiting list of 22 young people.
This publicity has reached many new families that we were not already know to. In addition, we have increased marketing of our services, in addition to our contacts within the disability team at the City of Edinburgh Council, we have posters in all GP surgeries in the cities, libraries and other third sector organisations.
Over the past year we have developed a shared learning document which explains some of the areas that you need to consider to ensure that your activities are fully inclusive looking at the environment that you choose, providing choice and empowering the young people to be involved amongst just some of the areas to consider.
Next year it is our intention to hold two parents nights to provide an opportunity for the parents from the youth clubs to meet each other and also for us to gather their views and opinions on the current service and any suggestions they may have