In recent years, the benefits of spending time outdoors to improve mental health and general wellbeing have been well documented. Taking a walk through woodlands or participating in activities like gardening or bushcraft can offer many a calming yet energising experience.
In particular, experiences and activities revolving around the natural world pose a whole host of benefits for people with autism of all ages.
Here at Calvert Exmoor, we are dedicated to ensuring a variety of outdoor adventure activities are made accessible to all. Our range of inclusive holidays, including those catered to individuals on the autism spectrum, are designed to support everyone.
Nature & Stress Relief
Getting outdoors can be a great mood booster, often helping individuals of all abilities experience reduced feelings of stress and anxiety.
For many, nature has a soothing quality; research has shown that just viewing images of nature can reduce negative feelings and promote positive ones.
Individuals with autism may experience becoming overwhelmed by numerous stressors that neurotypical people won’t be affected by in the same way. Spending time in the natural world has the potential to reduce these feelings and can support individuals gain the tools they need to react more constructively to moments of anxiety, fear or stress.
Improving General Wellbeing With Nature & Outdoor Activities
According to the mental health organisation Mind, taking the time to experience nature and appreciate green spaces can do far more than improve your mood and reduce feelings of stress. It can also:
- Support physical health
- Encourage you to become more active
- Encourage you to develop new skills
- Improve confidence and self-esteem
- Provide opportunities to meet new people
- Provide opportunities to engage with the local community
- Reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness
These factors contribute to improved physical, emotional and social wellbeing, helping you lead a happier life!
This can all be true for people with autism too, of course – outdoor activities can be adapted to suit individuals’ needs, ensuring that everyone can reap nature’s benefits and remain comfortable.
Research Connecting Autism & Nature
While extensive studies in this area are still limited, there has been some insight into the benefits spending time outdoors can provide for people with autism, along with plenty of anecdotal evidence about the calming and educational properties of engaging with nature.
A small 2018 study (Chang, Yuan-Yu & Chang, Chun-Yen) found some key benefits of outdoor activities for children with autism, highlighting seven primary benefits, including supporting:
- Physical activity
- Decreasing sensitivity
Outdoor Sensory Experiences
The natural world offers a plethora of sensory experiences with different sounds, smells, colours and textures to take in. Children especially can benefit from being introduced to a range of sensory experiences while in an environment where they can feel safe.
Spending time outdoors encompasses countless activities, so if an individual has sensory preferences or sensitivities, this can be taken into account. Some people may enjoy the sounds and sights in a woodland, while others may prefer the tactile nature of an activity like gardening.
Because the natural world can be unpredictable and versatile, some may worry about experiencing sensory overload. However, outdoor activities may still be enjoyed by people with autism people worried about sensory overload by providing a sense of control and expectation of the stimulus.
Making New Goals
Spending time outdoors can help promote self-confidence and independence, especially when connected to a specific activity like learning about woodland plants or animals.
Access to green spaces can help boost focus and attention, supporting individuals as they establish and achieve new goals. Outdoor adventure activities are completely new experiences for many; trying things like climbing or zip-wiring can help them face their fears and show they can achieve all kinds of goals.
Developing New Skills
Taking the opportunity to learn about bushcraft or foraging as well as more exhilarating activities like cycling and sailing is a great way for anyone to develop a range of new skills.
No matter what outdoor activity you take up, there are so many ways to build on existing skills, develop new interests and garner a sense of achievement.
The kind of skills developed is not limited to the practicalities of the activity, as many also find they grow more confident when it comes to developing communication skills. Outdoor team-building activities can provide a sense of structure to social interactions, supporting individuals to form new connections with others.
Autism-Friendly Adventure Holidays at Calvert Exmoor
Our accessible activity centre offers a wide variety of experiences suitable for numerous disabilities and requirements – this includes providing fantastic autism-friendly holidays and activities!
Guests will stay at our autism-friendly accommodation and have access to specialist facilities throughout their break. All of our guests are also supported by a dedicated instructor for the duration of their stay to ensure everyone feels safe and able to enjoy their adventure to the fullest.
Outdoor Activities for People with Autism
We believe that everyone should be able to take part in exciting outdoor activities, so we ensure everything we offer can be adapted to each individual. Some particular activities that have been enjoyed by our guests with autism include:
- Crate state
Our extensive range of other inclusive activities is also accessible to individuals with autism.
If you would like to find out more about our accessible holidays, please get in touch with the wonderful Calvert Exmoor team.
How Can SPELL Support Autistic People?
Life for autistic people can be made more challenging by an exclusive society. Many autistic people may communicate in different ways from non-autistic individuals, which can put them on the periphery of wider society when others are not correctly educated about different methods of communication.
At Calvert Trust Exmoor, we are dedicated to making the world a more welcoming place for all. Our inclusive and adaptive activity holidays for people with disabilities cater to people of all ages and abilities, including those on the autistic spectrum.
Learning about frameworks like SPELL is just one useful place to start when considering how to better understand and respond to autistic people. What are the benefits of SPELL, and how can the structure support communications for autistic people?
What is the SPELL Framework?
Developed by the National Autistic Society, SPELL is a guideline that can help those interacting with autistic people recognise someone’s individual needs and understand how to best meet these needs. There are five elements that go into creating the framework:
- Positive Approaches and Expectations
- Low Arousal
How to Support an Autistic Person
Using SPELL provides a useful baseline when it comes to supporting autistic people. The guidelines it gives can be adapted for people of all ages.
The five principles focus on assessing the unique needs of autistic individuals and explore the ways we can change our environments to make communication more accessible and effective. How can each element support autistic people?
Many autistic people may struggle with change or unpredictability, so providing structure can be hugely beneficial.
A sense of structure can give individuals more independence and confidence as they’ll know what to expect from a situation or person. Facilitating structure, stability and routine that is catered to individuals can reduce feelings of anxiety and stress.
Positive Approaches & Expectation
This element focuses on building self-esteem and confidence through focusing on interests and strengths and building goals around these positive attributes.
Creating realistic targets that take into account the barriers an individual might face helps support development. Many autsitic people may struggle with trying new experiences, but a structure of positive encouragement can help support progress.
As individuals progress, they can start setting higher goals that will support their overall well-being.
When a non-autistic person communicates with an autistic person, empathy can be a helpful tool. Seeing the world from their perspective may help you understand their reactions to certain things and what you can do to help improve the environment or reduce stressors.
Developing successful relationships will often come down to communicating in a consistent, logical and empathetic manner.
Different people will be able to deal with different levels of stimulus, so consider how the environment might affect an autistic person. Environments should be ordered and free of distractions to help keep communication relaxed and clear.
Some may need more time and focus to digest information, so keep control of any input to avoid a chaotic environment. Remain aware of noise, light, colours, smells and anything else in the environment that might cause a sensory overload.
This point refers to the importance of communicating with an autistic person’s life and the other people in their life, whether this means family, friends or caregivers.
Considering this support network as a unit helps avoid any instances of miscommunication or a fragmented approach. By keeping all involved on the same page, relevant information can flow more effectively.
Understanding and Responding to Autism
With this framework, hopefully, caregivers and others who interact with autistic people can gain a better understanding of the most productive ways to communicate with and support them.
It should be noted that every autistic person is different and will have different needs, so tailor your approach to them rather than following the framework blindly.
If you are or you know an autistic person who would love to take on a new adventure at our autism-friendly activity centre, why not get in touch to find out more about our activities and opportunities?
Adventure Activities for Wheelchair Users
Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, we are dedicated to making outdoor adventure activities accessible to all. No matter your level of mobility, we strive to ensure that our activities are inclusive and adaptive – our great facilities and expert team make this possible.
While some activities might seem out of reach for individuals with mobility impairments, this should not be the case. There are numerous exhilarating activities that can be enjoyed by everyone – although some might not be for the faint of heart!
Find out what kind of wheelchair-friendly activities we offer on our accessible holidays here at Calvert Trust Exmoor.
Hiking & Bushcraft for Wheelchair Users
Going on a hiking trail is a wonderful way to enjoy the great outdoors, whether you journey through the woodland or along a coastal path.
Although initial images of traversing the natural world might lean towards inaccessible, there are plenty of wheelchair-friendly trails to enjoy – especially around North Devon, where the Calvert Trust is located!
Taking to woodland trails also lends itself perfectly to the chance to experience bushcraft activities and engage with the world around us in new ways.
Carriage and Horse Riding for Wheelchair Users
Horse riding is a unique activity that allows you to develop a connection with a gentle animal, which can be incredibly therapeutic.
Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, we offer horse riding and carriage driving among our many activities! Our stable school aims to include everyone in the activity; we provide specialist equipment, such as hoists to help wheelchair users sit on the horse’s back.
If this is not possible, you can instead drive a horse-drawn carriage from your own wheelchair!
Please note that our horse riding activities are not available on weekend breaks, and weight restrictions will also apply.
Climbing and Abseiling for Wheelchair Users
Climbing and abseiling are renowned for their challenging attributes. However, the sport welcomes everyone and can be made accessible to all.
Venture to new heights as you ascend and descend our climbing and abseiling walls. It’s sure to prove a thrilling experience that is known to help individuals conquer fears and build confidence!
For those that want to have a go at climbing, wheelchair users are hoisted out of their chair and supported by a harness to the top of the wall. When taking part in abseiling, our specialist equipment helps wheelchair users descend down the wall in their wheelchair.
Canoeing & Sailing for Wheelchair Users
What about some watersports? Both canoeing and sailing offer a peaceful experience and relaxing day out as you bob along the water out in the fresh air.
Watersports at the Calvert Trust Exmoor centre are held at Wistlandpound Reservoir, the ideal spot for a safe and fun paddle! With adaptive seats, specialist hoists and an accessible pontoon, wheelchair users can get out on the water and enjoy the benefits of such a soothing and sensory experience.
Surfing for Wheelchair Users
Surfing has numerous benefits, including various physical and social advantages – plus, taking to the sands and the sea is loads of fun!
Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, we work with groups like the Wave Project and Surf South West to deliver life-changing surf experiences. Our guests have the chance to travel to Croyde beach, one of the premier surf spots in the UK, and will have access to adaptive surfboards and beach wheelchairs.
Cycling for Wheelchair Users
No matter your level of mobility, cycling is a great way to get out and about in nature. Put the pedal to the metal and enjoy a burst of fresh air!
We have a fleet of specialist adapted bikes here at Calvert Trust Exmoor that are suitable for a range of abilities. Our wheelchair cycles have handles, saddles, and pedals at the back with a chair or wheelchair platform on the front, allowing wheelchair users ease of use.
Archery for Wheelchair Users
Archery has a range of benefits and can be a really empowering activity – it’s great fun for people of all ages. It is something that can be adapted easily as there are various bow sizes and types available.
Archery activities are ideal if you want to pursue developing hand-eye coordination and motor skills. Another great thing about the sport is that no matter the weather, you can always enjoy getting active and shooting arrows either indoors or outdoors.
We provide numerous bows and use an assortment of targets, so your sessions can be as challenging and entertaining as you wish!
Zip Lining for Wheelchair Users
If you’re a bit of an adrenaline junkie and want to be immersed in an exciting experience, zip lining might just be for you! Zip lining can offer a fantastic sensory experience as you zip through the air, viewing the world at high-speed.
We use specially adapted harnesses accompanied by flexible, tailored supports to ensure everyone can have a go. Depending on the size of the group, you might have the opportunity to have several goes if you can’t get enough of the thrill!
Adventure Holidays for Wheelchair Users
Our great range of fun and sensory activities guarantee fun no matter the weather. We provide both standard and adaptive equipment and waterproofs to ensure everyone’s able to participate in the activities comfortably.
You can have a go at:
- Challenge Course
- Crate Stack
- Giant Swing
- Horse and Carriage Riding
We aim to take every detail into consideration when curating our inclusive activities and sites, ensuring everyone has a fulfilling trip. Accommodation is also made accessible to all.
If you’re looking to venture out a bit further, we can also tailor your programme to include wheelchair-friendly exploration sessions with trips to attractions like our nearby beaches and Exmoor Zoo.
For more information on our residentials for wheelchair users in the UK, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with a member of our team.
How to Promote Disability Awareness
There are roughly 14.1 million disabled people in the UK. This number may surprise some as disabilities are not always visible or openly discussed.
Although many charities and disability advocates have worked tirelessly over the years to bring more visibility to various disabilities and help give disabled people a voice, there is still a long way to go when it comes to the mainstream promotion of disability awareness.
As providers of adventure holidays for people with disabilities, creating an inclusive, welcoming environment and supporting equality is at the heart of what we do.
To that end, we share some ideas on how to promote and encourage disability awareness in your community! Our list is certainly not exhaustive, but we hope to inspire and motivate those who may not know where to begin.
Why is Disability Awareness Important?
If you are not disabled, chances are you know someone or numerous people who are, yet there is still much misinformation and ignorance surrounding disability. Because so much of the non-disabled population is unaware of the barriers disabled people face, the flaws of society can go unaddressed.
Promoting disability awareness is about considering how we can work together to recognise and remove social and workplace barriers to create more inclusive environments for all who have dealt with discrimination because of disability.
Creating Equality Through Education
Learning more about disability is essential in improving equal opportunities for disabled people. Accessible education helps more people understand the reality of having a disability compared to how it is commonly perceived.
Some believe that disability itself is the sole reason why someone faces barriers in their life. However, it is not an impairment that hinders a person but a discriminatory environment that doesn’t accommodate diversity.
With more awareness comes the opportunity for a more accessible and equal world. This would transform the day-to-day lives of disabled people by improving things that many non-disabled people may take for granted, such as access to buildings or other facilities.
The general assumption that disabled people are unable to do certain things can also be challenged through increased awareness. Assumptions like this can include the belief that a disabled person is unable to:
- Live independently
- Have children
- Be employed
These types of assumptions need to be addressed and changed.
Using the Correct Language to Talk About Disability
Awareness campaigns often begin by starting a conversation. The kind of language we use in these conversations can have a significant impact on others’ perceptions of disability.
Educating yourself on current and preferred disability terminology is essential. If you hear others using hurtful or outdated terms, do your best to inform them about inclusive language in a productive manner.
Words and their definitions will change and evolve over time, so make sure to keep informed about the most up-to-date language.
You can learn more about how to talk about disability in our guide to acceptable and unacceptable disability terminology.
Becoming informed doesn’t stop at the correct language usage. To develop a deeper understanding of disability, you need to appreciate the impact that a prejudiced society can have on people with disabilities, understand how many people it affects and how you can support changing it.
There are many organisations out there to help inform people, including:
If you are hoping to spread awareness on a large scale, such as through a social media campaign, it is integral you know the facts and present them properly, so make sure to get educated by recognised sources.
Lead By Example
It is important to model the correct behaviour, so others can take your lead when they themselves are not informed – this might be within your friendship group, family, workplace or wider community.
If you witness anything that undermines a disabled person, it is important to speak up. Ensure that everyone interacts with respect and genuine support, especially in public situations where others may copy your behaviour.
Don’t act out of pity, but instead strive for equality and meaningful change.
Disability Awareness and Inclusion in the Workplace
There are many ways workplaces can become more inclusive, with training and workplace initiatives becoming more common over recent years.
Places to start when opening up the conversation about inclusion in the workplace include:
- Encouraging volunteering opportunities
- Facilitating fundraising events
- Hosting training sessions on unconscious bias or barriers in the workplace.
Engage With Inclusive Media
Media, whether this means books, TV shows or movies, can at times offer a narrow view of the world, often not representing disabled people or doing so poorly. Seeking inclusive media can be a great way to bring disability awareness into the everyday life of people of all ages.
Positive portrayals of a disabled person help remove harmful stereotypes about disabled people not being able to do certain things or living their life in a certain way.
Look for media that uplifts disabled voices; stories and the media can do wonders for changing perceptions and societal norms, challenging views that disabled people are defined by their disability.
Support Charities & Donate
Change cannot be made through awareness alone; you also need to take direct action. Supporting charities and donating where you can is one great way to further the cause of disability awareness and support other disability campaigns.
Even if you cannot donate, offering your time as a volunteer can be another effective way to support your local charities.
It may not seem like it, but signing petitions for things that you care about can make a difference.
If there are petitions that you feel can change the lives of disabled people, whether national or local, you should support the cause that is close to your heart and your beliefs.
Follow Disability Awareness Groups on Social Media
Social media is a great way to stay up to date with key information and events, so make sure to follow groups and organisations that promote disability awareness!
This also allows you to share relevant information on your own social media channels to help spread awareness to your followers and beyond.
Disability Awareness Months & Days
Numerous organisations host awareness months for various disabilities throughout the year. These kinds of campaigns generate public awareness and prompt more people to get involved through donating and volunteering.
UK Disability History Month is an annual event that aims to discuss the oppression of disabled people in the past and present and provides education to ensure individuals can work towards equality and become agents of change. In 2021, the campaign takes place from the 18th of November to the 18th of December.
The International Day of Persons with Disabilities is another awareness campaign held every year on December 3rd. This campaign focuses on highlighting disability issues and discussing the changes that can be made to promote equality and inclusivity in all societies.
We have only touched on a few useful ways to promote disability awareness here; there are plenty more ways to get creative and show your support. If you have any further advice, please share it with us on our Facebook page; we’d love to hear from you!
If you’d like to find out more about our accessible adventure holidays and the inclusive activities we offer, please get in touch.
Beaches are beautiful examples of the grandeur of the natural world and are spaces that everyone should be able to enjoy. As an accessible outdoor adventure centre in Devon, we are committed to ensuring everyone can experience the joys of the countryside, especially the stunning beaches dotted around the North Devon coastline.
When you visit us at Calvert Trust Exmoor, you’re never too far from numerous picturesque seaside locations, many of which offer accessible facilities, including the ability to hire beach wheelchairs or carriages.
We cover everything you need to know about renting a beach wheelchair to ensure your next coastal adventure is the best it can be.
How Accessible is the North Devon Coastline?
In recent years, our glorious county has been a part of some great projects designed to make rural areas more accessible and inclusive spaces.
The Countryside Mobility Scheme is a non-profit organisation that aims to ensure the South West countryside is made accessible for all visitors.
With their influence and the impact of other dedicated companies, many areas now have on-site beach wheelchairs and carriages, with both manual and electrical options available to hire.
Schemes like this not only cater to beach locations but also aim to make woodland spaces and National Trust properties wheelchair accessible.
How to Hire a Beach Wheelchair
Whenever you’re on holiday and want to find out more about the local facilities, your first port of call should be the relevant tourist information centre. Here, you will be able to find out about the accessible opportunities in the area as well as how to hire any available equipment.
From there, hiring your beach wheelchair is a relatively simple process; you’ll just have to get in touch with the local beach shop or information centre, who will be able to give you more information about availability and any hiring prices.
The Best Accessible Beaches in North Devon
The list of beautiful local beaches is a long one, with plenty of locations offering access to all-terrain wheelchairs and trampers. Here are some of our favourite accessible beaches that make must-visit spots!
To find out more about these stunning destinations and more, read our blog below.
Is Croyde Bay Accessible?
Croyde Bay is a surfers paradise with various schools offering surfing lessons to anyone willing to have a go!
Calvert Trust Exmoor are currently partnered with the Wave Project and Surf South West to provide surf lessons to our guests in Croyde, with surfing as our only off-site activity.
If surfing isn’t your thing, and you’re just after a meander along the sands, there’s plenty of opportunity for that too. Croyde Bay is recognised as having disability access with short slopes down to the beach. It should be noted that the sand at the entrance is soft, which can make it more challenging to manoeuvre around for users of mobility aids.
We have provided two of our own beach wheelchairs for the Wave Project and Surf Southwest, which contribute to the accessibility of guests and students learning to surf at Croyde beach.
Is Saunton Sands Beach Accessible?
Saunton Sands is made up of three and a half miles of warm, golden sands, backed by the rolling dunes known as the Braunton Burrows.
The beach features numerous amenities, including two accessible toilets and accessible parking spaces.
The entrance to the beach consists of very soft sand and a steep slope, which can prove to be challenging for wheelchairs. However, the Saunton Sands Beach Shop holds five wheelchairs suitable for both adults and children, including:
- Three Landeez beach wheelchairs
- Two NOMAD all-terrain carriages
How to Hire a Beach Wheelchair at Saunton Sands
Advanced booking is recommended, especially during the summer months. You can call 01271 890771 to rent a chair for:
- Half a day
- A full day
- Or on a weekly basis
Two of the wheelchairs at Saunton Sands have been provided by the Calvert Trust Exmoor site.
Is Woolacombe Bay Accessible?
Woolacombe Bay is another dreamy coastal location and home to a glorious landscape of golden sands.
Accessible toilets are available in the village, and the beach is recognised as having easy access, with a ramp that leads to the beach. Again, sands can be soft and more difficult to navigate.
An electric beach wheelchair is available to hire from the Woolacombe Tourist Information Centre.
How to Hire a Beach Wheelchair at Woolacombe Bay
Due to the popularity of Woolacombe, booking ahead of time is thoroughly recommended. You can either call 01271 870553 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
To hire the beach wheelchair, you automatically become a member of the Countryside Mobility, which has an annual fee of £10.00. Alternatively, you can try a £2.50 two week ‘Taster Membership’.
Once a member of Countryside Mobility, you are allowed to use the available trampers at any of the 36 sites in the South West.
A donation of £5 per session is also encouraged.
Is Lundy Island Accessible?
Situated just 12 miles off the North Devon coast, Lundy Island is a brilliant day out for anyone visiting the area. The raw and natural landscape of the island is immense, and the wildlife is spectacular. Though rare to see, both deer and puffin inhabit the island.
On the island, there are two electric wheelchairs available for hire. Because of its more remote location, travelling to and staying on Lundy can prove tricky for some, so make sure to consider these elements too.
How to Hire a Beach Wheelchair on Lundy Island
Booking in advance is essential to ensure someone is available to assist once the boat has docked on the island.
The electric wheelchairs are available for day hire. However, you will already need to be a Countryside Mobility member due to the reduced staffing on the island and the requirement of tramper induction for new members.
Hire will cost £20 for a full day and £50 for a week.
Other Accessible Places to Visit in North Devon
Once you’ve had your fill of sea and sand, head to one of the county’s fantastic National Trust properties to delve into the historic homes and striking landscapes. You can find some of our top accessible National Trust sites below.
Hiring a Wheelchair at the National Trust
If you are interested in visiting a National Trust site and require wheelchair hire, we recommend getting in touch with the location in advance to check for wheelchair availability – some locations may only provide seasonal wheelchair hire.
Wheelchair hire from the National Trust is usually part of the Countryside Mobility Scheme, which means you will need to be a member.
Hopefully, you can make the most of your next North Devon beach holiday with this bit of insight! If we missed something, or you want to tell us about your experience hiring beach wheelchairs, we’d love to hear from you – leave a comment on our Facebook page to get involved.
If you or someone you know could benefit from an accessible activity break with us, please don’t hesitate to get in touch to find out more about the Calvert Experience.
Among our accessible facilities, our site at Calvert Trust Exmoor includes our accessible riding stables, so school groups, families and much more can all enjoy a day out with our extended family – our horses and ponies.
We include horse riding as it is a sport where everyone can get involved and make memories together. The sport has been recognised to help support physical and emotional development while also helping people feel happier and more confident.
Calvert Trust Exmoor’s Accessible Riding Stables
Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, we have our very own on-site riding school. We are recognised for having a high standard of facilities and are approved by the British Horse Society. We have a BHS-Accredited Professional Coach among our team, and our carriage driving instructors are trained to British Driving Society standards.
On each session, our committed team work together to ensure that your experience with Calvert Trust Exmoor is as inclusive as possible. Our horses are specially selected and trained to ensure that they have the right temperament for our guests to interact with and the right size for riding.
Horse Riding for Disabled People at Calvert Trust
We constantly strive to make all of our facilities as accessible as possible, to share our experiences with each of our visitors. Guests are provided with several different activity options during their time at our stable school so that we can cater to all disabilities.
Horse based activities are a great way to develop confidence, increase independence, and hone new skills in an inclusive and enjoyable way. Our friendly horses and specially-trained staff give everyone a sense of calm and wellbeing while supporting our guests to challenge themselves and have fun.
Riding School Activities and Sessions
Individuals are offered a variety of activities that include riding a horse, playing games and improving their confidence around horses. For those unable to mount a horse, we also offer a carriage riding experience, where you will be able to take the reins and drive!
When on a session at our riding school, we ensure that everyone meets and interacts with various horses and ponies. We support things like stroking during our sessions, as this sensory experience supports the development of motor skills and nerve connections.
We even provide the opportunity to learn more about horse behaviour and ‘how to speak horse’, alongside other stable management tasks such as grooming, tacking up, and mucking out.
As well as getting your hands dirty, we also offer opportunities to experience pony agility sessions, where you will work with the pony to get over and around various obstacles.
It’s worth noting that our horse and carriage riding sessions are only available on midweek or full-week breaks; they do not take place at weekends.
To ensure our horses and ponies’ health, there is a weight restriction for our guests who wish to participate in riding and carriage driving.
What are the Overall Benefits of Horse Riding for Disabled People?
A 2018 study demonstrated that horse riding is a therapeutic activity for young people and children. Over the course of the study, it presented a great range of positive health benefits for various diagnoses, including developmental, physical and behavioural.
Horse riding helps individuals to gain more confidence and express who they are. By building their confidence, you’ll see a wonderful change in mood, self-esteem and self-belief. The ongoing development of self-confidence supports the individuals to get more involved and socialise with others.
Horse riding can also help increase a range of movement; this is because the horse allows the pelvis, spine and other associated muscles to work together as they would if they were walking. This rhythmic movement relaxes tight and stiff muscles, improving their core, coordination and balance.
As well as this, horse riding helps participants gain a greater awareness of their body’s capabilities! As well as supporting the strength of their body, the horse’s movement motivates participants to look up from the ground and grow awareness and interest in their surroundings.
Sense of Accomplishment
The horse’s immediate feedback in response to the rider’s actions helps individuals discover a new set of skills and guide the horse. By experiencing this accessible activity, participants often feel a sense of success and mastery. Overall, this empowerment helps participants to build on their self-advocacy and make independent choices.
Due to the nature of horse riding, riders are presented with many opportunities to interact with others in the group, including the horses. Accompanied by their growing sense of self-esteem, riders are more likely to develop their communication skills and connect to those around them.
Adapt to Change
Experiencing change can often trigger anxiety; horse riding presents various opportunities to help riders overcome this. In the study, some riders began to accept and seek change freely. This experience allows riders to experience less anxiety, demonstrate their courage and adapt to situations much quicker.
Benefits of Carriage Driving
We understand that not all of our guests can horse ride due for a variety of reasons. To ensure that each of our guests gets to share the experience with one of our horses, we also provide carriage riding and driving.
Carriage riding supports our visitors to improve:
- Muscle power
As well as supporting the driver’s physical abilities, the experience can be quite soothing, helping the driver relax thanks to the rhythmic movement of the horse pulling the carriage and the added benefit of being out in the open air.
Benefits of Horse Riding for Cerebral Palsy
Horses have been used to help treat cerebral palsy since the 1970s. Methods like hippotherapy have been used to help support and enhance individuals’ neurological and physical abilities. The approach was first discovered in the 1960s; it was based on the learned and spontaneous reactions that naturally evolve from riding a horse.
Horse riding is an enjoyable activity that offers riders benefits in a range of physical areas, such as:
- Muscle strength
- Weight shifting
- Joint flexibility
- And much more!
Not only does horse riding have a great range of physical benefits, but it also offers a great range of psychological ones! Reports have shown that children with cerebral palsy that enjoy horse riding can develop improvements in:
- Cognitive development
- Courage in movement and position change
- Overall mood
- Confidence and sense of responsibility
Benefits of Horse Riding for Brain Injuries
Animal Assisted Therapy has been shown to significantly improve the communication skills of those who have suffered brain injuries.
Studies have shown that using animals, such as horses, as a means of therapy has led to a significant increase in social behaviour, including verbal and non-verbal communication. One major component of this stems from the individual’s motivation to care for the animals, which often inspires them to do tasks they might usually struggle with.
Benefits of Horse Riding for Autism
Studies have shown that children with autism can acquire long and short-term benefits from horse riding. Direct contact with horses has been shown to reduce irritability and hyperactivity.
Researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus have documented a great range of short-term benefits for autistic children who have engaged with horseback riding. Human-animal interactions have been proven to support the improvement of emotional health and social wellness.
Within these results, the children riding horses showed a reduction in irritability and hyperactivity. As well as this, they also showed an improvement in their social skills and word fluency.
After following up their results, the researchers found that horse riding had lasting benefits on the riders. The children had maintained their reduction in irritability and growth in social skills and word fluency.
Benefits of Horse Riding for Down Syndrome
Horse riding is an excellent activity for people with down syndrome; it provides sensory stimulation for muscles and joints and helps to support the development of balance and movement.
The sensory activity is very tactile, as it often includes stroking, hugging and patting the horse. This is important for any form of special needs as it helps build the brain’s nerve connections, improve cognitive growth, and support the development of motor skills.
Horse riding is also a great way to instil confidence in riders and develop memory, strength and coordination, while still providing a fun and exciting experience.
Benefits of Horse Riding for ADHD
Animals have been proven to be beneficial for people with ADHD, especially children.
If a child runs up to a horse impulsively, the horse might withdraw, but if the child calmly approaches the horse, it will respond more positively. Horses have been used throughout therapy to help people with ADHD to connect to others.
While riding, horses respond to verbal and non-verbal communication through their reigns and the rider’s legs. Experiencing this form of communication can be very effective. Not only is the overall experience calming, but it requires teamwork, too, increasing the rider’s focus and organisation skills.
Benefits of Horse Grooming for Dementia
A study has shown that people who suffer from dementia experience a boost in physical activity and ease in symptoms after caring for horses. While spending time with the horses, researchers found that people who have dementia experienced an immediate lift in mood.
The study also demonstrated a clear improvement in overall behaviour; even those who often acted withdrawn were fully engaged with the experience. As well as this, caring for horses instilled a motivational cause to push their physical boundaries, like walking unassisted or standing from their wheelchair.
We hope this article has helped share some of the benefits that horse riding provides for disabled people. If you want to find out more about our activities, contact our team or browse our blog.
Using acceptable terminology to talk about disability is not merely about being ‘politically correct’ – it is about removing barriers, changing assumptions and creating an inclusive environment that welcomes all.
As an accessible activity centre that welcomes those of all ages and abilities, here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, we are committed to ensuring everyone has a better understanding of inclusive language and behaviour.
We understand that, for many, using the wrong language comes from being unaware rather than being willfully hurtful; so, it is important that everyone does what they can to educate themselves and help spread awareness of the proper vocabulary to use when discussing disabilities.
How to Talk & Write About Disability
It should be noted that not everyone will agree on what exactly is acceptable or unacceptable. However, while there may be some disparity when considering the correct terms on an individual basis, there are some general language guidelines that you should be aware of.
If you are unsure about what words and phrases to use, you should ask the person you are talking to to find out which terms they are comfortable with, as different individuals may identify with certain things.
Language is constantly evolving as definitions change over time and disability advocates become more prominent, so it is also vital to keep up to date with acceptable language and remain sensitive to the changes.
The recommendations that inform this guide come from the Government website, the NHS, and various disability-specific charities that work with disability advocates to establish inclusive language guidelines.
The Social Model of Disability & Language
Developed by disabled people, this model concludes that individuals are disabled by the barriers that society inflicts, not by their impairment.
Language plays an essential role in this model as using the correct language helps change cultural assumptions and encourages the use of positive terms over negative and medical terminology.
Some may not relate to the social model of disability, so again, it is important to have conversations with the disabled people in your life to understand which terms they consider appropriate.
General Inclusive Terminology
You should not use the term ‘the disabled’ when referring to a collective group; instead, use ‘disabled people’ to put emphasis on the fact that individuals are not defined by a disability – the term disabled is descriptive, not a group of people.
Acceptable: disabled people
Unacceptable: the disabled, the handicapped
In regards to accessible facilities:
Acceptable: accessible toilets/parking, parking for blue or orange badge holders
Unacceptable: disability-friendly, disabled toilets/parking
You should also avoid using terms like ‘able-bodied’ as this implies disabled people are unable – instead, use ‘non-disabled’.
Individuals & Their Disabilities
When referring to individuals with disabilities:
Acceptable: has ‘x’/has a diagnosis of ‘x’ (name of the condition, e.g. autism, depression, epilepsy)
Unacceptable: illness, suffers from, handicapped, invalid
You should avoid negative terms relating to illness as some may not consider themselves unwell or ‘having a condition’. The term ‘diagnosed with’ is also unacceptable to some as it centres a medical professional’s opinion rather than an individual.
When talking about autism and autistic people:
Acceptable: autistic person, person on the autism spectrum
Unacceptable: people living with autism, an autistic
When talking about Asperger’s syndrome:
Acceptable: it is a form of autism
Unacceptable: it is not a rare or mild form of autism
When discussing mobility:
Acceptable: wheelchair user, walks with a mobility aid
Unacceptable: mobility problems, wheelchair-bound
Saying someone is wheelchair-bound implies they are restrained or restricted, so the preferred term for most is ‘wheelchair user’. For many, this term more accurately represents the experience and doesn’t perpetuate stereotypes.
Many people may avoid engaging with the topic of disability and the correct terminology for fear of saying the wrong thing. However, learning about acceptable terms can go a long way to make people feel more included and accepted by society.
If you would like to learn more about our accessible adventure breaks and our work here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
You can also find a rundown on what to expect from a weekend away with us below.
Please include attribution to https://calvertexmoor.org.uk/ when using the graphic in this article.
5 Benefits of Surfing for People with Disabilities
As an accessible activity centre in Devon, we’re always keen to shout about the benefits of spending time in the great outdoors and believe that everyone should be able to enjoy activities in the natural world.
Surfing is a highly active and exhilarating sport that engages both the mind and body – it is something that individuals of all abilities can experience and enjoy.
Not only does surfing give you an opportunity to appreciate the environment and get face-to-face with the natural world, but it’s all a brilliantly fun activity that provides an experience that can’t be replicated elsewhere.
Adaptive Surfing at Calvert Trust Exmoor
Surfing is our only off-site activity; if you opt for a surf-inclusive break, we’ll take the short trip to Croyde, one of the region’s most famous surfing beaches, where guests will be given engaging surf lessons taught by experienced surf instructors.
Surf Therapy for Mental and Physical Disabilities
These organisations we work with are pioneers in the area of surf therapy.
The Wave Project is part of a well-established scheme that facilitates surf therapy sessions designed to support young people with mental or physical conditions. It aims to help them build confidence, reduce anxiety and strive for that ‘I CAN do it’ attitude.
Since The Wave Project’s inception in 2010, surf therapy has become an NHS-recognised form of effective therapy, especially for young people.
Surf Therapy Research
The field still lacks an abundance of quantitative research, but the 2015 study Benefits of Surfing for Children with Disabilities: A Pilot Study from the University of Rhode Island remains a valuable resource and validates some of the thinking behind surf therapy.
The study touts the physical benefits of surfing for people with disabilities and also touches on the potential social and personal benefits the activity promotes.
Findings from the study concluded that the analysed surf therapy programme ‘improved numerous areas of physical fitness and is another activity that can be added to the repertoire of effective adapted aquatic exercise programs.’
Over the course of our surf sessions, we’ve seen our guests benefit from the activity in numerous ways. Below, we explore the top five benefits that accessible surfing can provide.
1. Surfing Can Improve Physical Fitness
Surfing is widely acknowledged as an intense form of exercise which involves healthy levels of aerobic activity. Surfing encourages participants to move their bodies in new ways, practising movements that are different from everyday activities.
The study mentioned above found that, overall, surfing improved the physical wellbeing of the participants.
Core body strength, aerobic capacity, increased grip strength and flexibility were all recorded as being improved after the surf programme study.
2. Surfing Cultivates an Environment of Support
Surfing can be an unforgettable experience, especially when participants are surrounded by an environment of encouragement and support.
Whether surfers are given lessons as a group or as an individual, they have the opportunity to form a trusting relationship with the instructor while also being encouraged to strive for feelings of independence and achievement.
3. Surfing Encourages Social Inclusion
Anecdotal evidence from various surf therapy studies and sessions has also highlighted the beneficial social aspects of surfing.
Even if the surf lessons are one-to-one, a network and sense of community is built up between everyone taking part. Surfing is an inclusive sport that promotes a supportive environment for participants to encourage each other and share one another’s successes.
The energetic nature of the activity allows for a great backdrop for making friends and forming connections.
4. Surfing Supports Confidence and Self Belief
Surfing may seem like a daunting activity at first, but with some guidance from a dedicated instructor and some time in the water, guests will be surprised by how quickly they take to the sport.
Taking part in surfing activities can help boost an individual’s sense of self, helping to improve confidence, self-esteem and a feeling of belonging.
These feelings are incredibly important to developing a positive personal perception. By sparking these feelings towards oneself, the desire to feel challenged is also boosted.
5. Surfing is a Fun Experience
Aside from all those other benefits, surfing is just plain fun, which many of our guests will certainly attest to!
Surfing is a unique sport that pushes individuals to learn numerous new skills, including balance and furthering water knowledge, all while being in a safe and supportive environment where individuals are primarily encouraged to be themselves and have fun.
The accessible surfing activities that we offer here at Calvert Trust Exmoor are available to both children and adults. Specialist beach equipment and adaptive surfboards are also provided to ensure everyone can take part comfortably.
Please note that surfing trips are not included in a standard break package. To find out more about our surf experiences or any of our other accessible activities and disability holidays, please get in touch.
It’s common knowledge that keeping active and incorporating regular exercise into our lives helps keep our minds and bodies healthy, but did you know that exercise can also help individuals manage ADHD symptoms too?
Similar to ADHD medication, exercise can increase brain power, energy and reduce confusion.
Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, our accessible breaks are designed to ensure everyone can enjoy our activities no matter their ability. We offer a range of inclusive holidays for all ages, including breaks to support those with ADHD.
Our variety of exciting outdoor activities aim to support those with ADHD build up their self-confidence, communication and social skills.
What is ADHD?
ADHD, otherwise known as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a mental health condition that affects 11% of young children; however, in 75% of cases, ADHD can go on to affect them throughout adulthood, meaning many adults live with ADHD.
Symptoms often consist of fidgety behaviour and an inability to stay focused due to a shorter attention span. Although ADHD is not a learning disorder, its symptoms can often cause difficulty in academic environments and general day-to-day activities.
The Benefits of Outdoor Spaces for ADHD
A growing body of research indicates that children and adults affected by ADHD have increased their ability to focus and reduced their stress and anxiety levels through spending time in green spaces.
Research suggests that time spent in natural environments is restorative to the body and brain. Some studies have shown that those who participated in outdoor activities displayed a decrease in ADHD symptoms.
The reduction in ADHD symptoms is partly due to two types of attention, directed/task driven attention and fascination. Over-exercising of directed and task-driven attention can result in attention fatigue, which can cause an increase in impulsivity and distractibility.
Nature offers a solution to this by balancing out directed attention and fascination, allowing the learner to recover from situational lack of focus.
Is Archery Good for ADHD?
Although there is no cure for ADHD, strategies can reduce the difficulties that may arise from the condition. There is also a great range of methods and approaches that can help with managing ADHD symptoms.
Exercise has proven to be one of the more positive and efficient ways to reduce inattention and hyperactivity. Relaxing forms of exercise can also be beneficial for people with ADHD as they can help relieve stress, support their sense of control, and manage impulsiveness.
Archery is a great sport that can help to benefit:
- Upper body strength
Activities such as archery are often suggested by therapists, doctors, psychologists and counsellors. Archery is not only a fun, accessible activity that can offer immersion, but it is also a skill that can be mastered and followed up on, as opposed to a one-off experience. When practised, archery can increase cognitive function by working the same parts of the brain required in academic environments.
One of the most important components of archery is that it offers an immediate reward. The archer has the opportunity to focus on their activity, which is immediately met with a reward and result. These short bursts of focus provide an accessible starting point for progression, which bodes well for shorter attention spans.
A lot of people who have ADHD also experience anxiety. Archery is a meditative sport that can help soothe anxious thoughts and episodes of depression, helping to improve overall mood. This is all thanks to the nature of archery, which centres around something the participant can control and immediately improve on.
Archery can also help an assortment of conditions, such as:
ADHD Archery Accessories and Equipment
In some cases, ADHD symptoms can make archery a slightly difficult activity to initially get into. However, a great range of equipment is available that can help avoid any initial hesitance so that the participant can quickly reap its many rewards!
In most cases, beginners are introduced to lightweight bows, making it much easier for them to handle. Starting them off with a weighted bow can help support their muscle growth and increase strength – this is useful for new archers of any age.
With regular use, the bow will be able to be held up without issue. As they advance, heavier bows can be used to help build additional strength. It’s worth noting that if an individual’s arm starts to ache, it should be temporarily swapped with a lighter bow.
A symptom of ADHD is difficulty with focusing, which can prove challenging when participating in archery. Archery scopes are a great feature that can help to support someone with ADHD practice their aim.
Scopes are also a great tool to incorporate into archery as they support focus while building on a more positive experience and a person’s understanding of the sport.
If there is difficulty in terms of aim and accuracy, larger targets are a great way to move forward. Large targets can offer a rewarding experience instead of a frustrated one, which can quickly lead to a lack of interest.
Larger targets are easier to hit; each arrow that hits the target will help to build on the participant’s confidence. It’s also worth noting that the design of the target can play an important factor in the archery experience. Too many colours can be distracting for people with ADHD.
Holding bows can become tiresome or challenging for those trying archery for the first time. Bow grips are often a good idea to increase support and ensure beginners get the most out of their archery session. The sling allows for a softer grip, allowing archers to relax rather than tense.
People with ADHD can often find loud or sudden noises distracting. String stops are often incorporated to help avoid loud noises impacting their archery session.
String stops work by preventing the bow from producing a loud noise when the arrow is released and are one of the most effective ways to reduce noise.
What Activities are Good For ADHD?
Sadly, not all sports and activities can work well for people with ADHD. However, there are some (like archery!) that are great for promoting things like health, self-esteem, teamwork skills and reducing ADHD symptoms.
Even a 20-minute walk in the park can help to reduce ADHD symptoms. However, not all individuals are the same, and an activity that might work wonders for one person may not have the same impact on another.
As mentioned above, archery is an excellent medium for any age for practising focus and building on patience and progression, which can quickly result in an increase in confidence and concentration.
Biking and cycling is active and adaptable, and is a great activity to experience with family and friends.
Again, bike rides have been known to support the improvement of focus, fitness, attention and confidence.
Paddling sports such as kayaking and canoeing are easy to learn and great ways to get out into the sunshine.
Not only is paddling excellent for building up strength and fitness, but it can also provide a calming feeling as you glide through the water.
Gardening can be incredibly mediative, making it a wonderful activity for people with ADHD. The activity offers a sense of progressive measure that can easily be observed.
Gardening also offers a sense of purpose, can be easy to access, and can help to burn off excessive energy.
Rock climbing is becoming increasingly popular and has started to present itself as a great way for people who have ADHD to exert their excessive behaviour. Climbing requires a lot of focus and can be just as mentally challenging as it is physically.
Coaches and Instructors
A coach or instructor plays a crucial role in supporting the adventurers to understand, participate and enjoy the activity. In some cases, the coach might not have a good understanding of ADHD, which can negatively impact the experience.
Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, all our staff are devoted to making a positive difference in people’s lives. We work hard to ensure that all our guest’s needs are met and more! Due to our experience with a variety of conditions and abilities, we pride ourselves on our ability to provide an experience tailored to you.
The Calvert Experience includes a whole range of exciting activities for an assortment of occasions; each break is specifically tailored to meet your needs.
For more information about our accommodation and outdoor activities, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!
Communication is an integral part of how we understand and relate to one another. Everyone talks and behaves in unique ways, with many of us having personal verbal or body language quirks that are part of what make us, us!
The subtleties of these different methods of communicating can make understanding others confusing, especially for autistic people.
Educating yourself on how an autistic person might communicate is one of the most helpful ways to reduce confusion for everyone. It’s important to note that no two autistic people will communicate in the same way; there are, however, some general things to consider.
By having a good general knowledge of autism and communication, you open the door to more effective communication between all, rediscovering the joy of good conversation whether it’s with a family member, friend, work colleague or stranger!
We hope this will prove a useful resource for those endeavouring to improve their understanding of autism and the role of communication.
Understanding Autism and Communication
When considering how to improve the way you communicate, it can be helpful to first appreciate how communication might be more difficult for autistic people.
Historically, wider society has perpetuated assumptions that autistic people struggle with social skills, are shy or unfriendly, or cannot feel or express emotions.
These assumed traits are unfair, untrue and should be dismissed as ignorance.
Instead, an autistic person may be unable to find the right words to start a conversation, they may not understand body language and social cues, and they may deal with emotion internally rather than expressing it outwards.
Some autistic people cannot quickly adapt to conversations or respond to words in the same way neurotypical people might. This is not because they cannot communicate ‘correctly’; they may simply communicate in their own way.
Because the autism spectrum is vastly different for each person, there is always variety in the way autistic people will behave and talk. Autistic people are not deliberately being strange or unsociable but are seeking the best ways to express themselves.
The Benefits of Improving Your Communication Skills
Learning how to best converse with people who may not communicate in a way you’re familiar with can help you appreciate how people experience the world differently.
When improving your communication skills, you’ll also learn how to better express yourself and your own ideas in various ways.
You’ll also, of course, be able to connect with more people, build relationships and help cultivate a more understanding environment, making discussions an enjoyable and productive experience for everyone.
How Do Autistic People Communicate?
As mentioned, there is no one size fits all – autistic people are not a homogeneous group. That being said, many autistic people might use some of the following communication techniques.
- Non-verbal communication – pointing, gesturing, physically moving someone to the thing they need, writing words.
- Sounds and crying – due to not understanding, feeling frustrated or being unable to use the right words.
- Echolalia – the term given to repeating phrases and words they have heard in the past, hoping these phrases ‘fit’ the current situation.
- Picking out keywords or phrases – then focusing on the literal meanings and responding accordingly to those words only.
For an autistic person, focusing on the literal meaning of specific words creates a reply that makes sense to them, but it may seem out of place in the conversation to a neurotypical person.
Analysing words and not tones is why an autistic person might have trouble understanding sarcasm, metaphors, and humorous language.
While talking to someone, an autistic person might also:
- Change topics quickly – it can be difficult for individuals to stay on topic as they deal with incoming stimuli. It may seem like they are avoiding something or are unfocused, yet it is usually the other way around, as the mind moves quickly to deal with each input.
- Make no eye contact – autistic people can talk with you but may struggle to talk to you, often not making eye contact. Again, this is not an unfriendly action.
Eye Contact and Communication for Autistic People
Avoiding eye contact may help an autistic person talk clearly as it takes away all the stimuli that come with looking into someone’s eyes, which can often cause an overload of information. Some people may prefer to speak with their eyes shut, to focus purely on the words of the conversation.
You should never force an autistic person to make eye contact with you during a conversation as, for many individuals, this might cause undue stress and discomfort.
How to Talk to an Autistic Person
By looking at how autistic people may communicate, we can see that their understanding of conversations relies heavily on language and words (or lack of words) and not the use of other people’s facial expressions, body language or subtle infections.
Below, we provide some common tips to use when speaking to an autistic person who may have difficulty communicating.
Speak With Clarity
One of the best things you can do is speak with clear and concise words, saying simple and plain sentences that cannot have more than one meaning.
Be direct and avoid using figures of speech as non-literal language can be confusing. Slang, nuance, or sarcasm can cause confusion and double-meaning.
Avoid Terms of Endearment
Like sarcasm or slang, terms of endearment, including things like ‘honey’, ‘love’ or ‘mate’, can cause confusion and should be avoided.
The speaker may mean nothing by these terms or use them offhandedly, but an autistic person may take them literally or find them uncomfortable.
Address the Individual By Name
Say the person’s name at the beginning of a conversation, question or important statement.
This ensures they are paying attention instead of blocking out background noise. If you don’t know their name, take a moment to ask and find out (which is also just polite and helps make a connection).
Make Gentle Eye Contact If Possible
This encourages non-verbal communication and helps autistic people develop their skills in understanding facial expressions and emotion.
Again, don’t try to force this, as it can make talking even more difficult for some.
Avoid Open-Ended Questions
Something like ‘did you have a good day?’ is an open-ended question that many neurotypical people will answer without hesitation. However, questions with so many possible answers and interpretations can be challenging for autistic people to answer.
Questions that are necessary and require a specific answer are much better. It can also help to offer options or choices to help guide but not control the conversation.
Talk About What They Want to Discuss
This is especially true for children.
Trying to force the conversation in a certain direction is not a successful approach. Instead, talk about what they are doing and let them lead the subject.
Another trait of autism includes obsessive tendencies, which might lead to them talking a lot about one particular thing. Sticking to the topic they want to discuss keeps the conversation going and helps them develop their communication skills.
Avoid Overloading Information
An autistic person can struggle to filter out less important information, which can lead to them being overloaded, meaning they struggle to process new information.
If it seems like they’re being overloaded, or are anxious, begin to slow your pace or halt the conversation. If something must be said, use minimal words and avoid questions. This break allows the individual to catch up and deal with stimuli.
If it seems like a conversation is becoming distressing, it can also be helpful to remove visual communications. While eye contact and movements are usually a good thing, during an overload, they can become unwanted stimulus.
You should also be aware of the surrounding environment – could background noise be causing overload? Are too many people talking at once? Finding a quiet place reduces sensory input and will help avoid overload.
If it’s necessary to wait for a response to a question, then give them time. If someone does not respond straight away, it could be that they need more time to absorb and process the information.
Expect the Unexpected
We know that autistic people may use gestures, sounds and echolalia to process and respond to specific words. Someone may use all or a few of these communication methods.
If an individual does or says something unexpected or changes the subject, do not be alarmed or try to fight it. It’s important to listen and work out what they’re trying to say. Keep being patient, go with the flow of the conversation and allow the individual to communicate in their way.
Try Written or Visual Communication
If verbal communication is less effective, try writing or getting visual. Someone who struggles to talk may be happy to restart the conversation on paper, using written words or pictures.
Sensory or receptive toys may also help some people feel more comfortable when in a situation where they have to talk or get their point across.
How to Communicate With Autistic Adults
Most of the tips above will apply to conversing with autistic people of all ages. However, one of the most important things to do when talking with an autistic adult is to address and converse with them as you would any other adult, and not as a child.
An autistic person may understand every word said but then may have difficulty responding verbally. It is therefore important not to assume the person has limited skills or abilities.
You should also never speak as if the person is not in the room when in a group setting. By modelling appropriate behaviour, you also help show others in the group how they can best communicate with autistic people.
How Do Autistic Children Communicate?
Autistic children may have different mannerisms as they are still developing and learning to react to the world around them.
These may include:
- Using made-up words (known as neologisms) instead of words they don’t know or when they are unsure how to express themselves.
- Using the same words over and over.
- Muddling up words and pronouns, for example, referring to themselves as ‘you’ and other people as ‘I’.
These are often a child’s attempts to make some communication happen, but an adult may not understand. This may lead to tantrums, aggression or self-harming behaviour because they are misunderstood, confused or frightened.
How to Communicate With Autistic Children
Language is often simplified for all children but is especially important for autistic children as they are still learning about metaphors, double meanings and sarcasm.
When speaking to autistic children, you should be very conscious of doing the following to support their communication skills.
- Using short sentences and blunt instructions.
- Using sounds like ‘yuck’ and physical actions.
- Combining verbal communication alongside visual cards or tablets with pictures.
- Speaking with an exaggerated tone of voice to make a point and highlight important words.
- Talking with gaps in sentences for them to fill in and finish.
- Using prompts and questions to encourage responses.
- Speaking with patience and giving time to respond.
- Attempting communication at the right moments when they are not engaged with something else and are calm.
Autism-Friendly Holidays at Calvert Trust Exmoor
As everyone is different, we understand that these points can only be used as a general guide – one of the best ways to improve communication with autistic people is to build a rapport and connection with the individual.
This is something we keep in mind here at Calvert Trust Exmoor when organising our accessible holidays in Devon.
Our breaks are designed to support those with a range of abilities, providing specialised activities and autism-friendly accommodation, facilities and adventures.
When on one of our autism-friendly holidays, our trained instructors will create a tailored experience, guiding guests through a variety of exciting activities. We ensure that guests will have the same instructor throughout their stay, helping autistic guests build a stronger bond with them.
Our accessible breaks cater to both adults and children, ensuring that everyone enjoys the activities and is encouraged to reach their full potential!
To find out more about the autism-friendly Calvert Experience, you can read our guest stories, where you’ll find numerous examples of how various autistic people have enjoyed their time with us.
For more information about booking an autism-friendly holiday, please get in touch.