Sensory and receptive toys can be helpful for children and adults on the autism spectrum as they may assist in easing feelings of anxiety by occupying one or more of the five senses.
Various toys which are specifically designed to assist those who have autism are available. The items below may not all be specially designed with an autism spectrum condition in mind but are considered as helpful by charities which support those have autism. These items and ideas are what our article will focus on.
As a site that offers accessible holidays in Devon, our facilities include a sensory room which is available as a safe space to those who have autism and may need an area away from overwhelming surroundings.
The Purpose of Receptive Toys
Receptive toys can be used to interact with one or more of the five senses:
They are produced with the aim to assist with physical or cognitive development and to attain the attention of a child who may feel overwhelmed by surroundings which feel chaotic. If you would like to learn more about autism, please take a look at our blog on Understanding Autism.
There are many projectors on the market which are designed to create a safe-feeling space through ambient lighting. The OPTI Aura Sensory Projector is a leading brand built by the same company which produced lighting for shows, including The Who and Pink Floyd. Testimonials of their positive impact can be found on their website, including from the parents of children who live with special needs, such as autism. The projector has been described as being especially useful when aiding with sleep routines due to the relaxing environment they create. Colour torches can also offer similar features, at a smaller price tag.
A bubble machine can be considered a multi-sensory toy which can intrigue a range of ages. By creating bubbles, it can be enjoyed on its own or incorporated into games. For example, tracking games by following the bubble, chasing the bubbles and catching the bubbles which exercise tracking and motor skills. If your child prefers to try things themselves, a bottle of bubbles is also a great and cheaper alternative.
Sensory Blackout Tent
A blackout tent can be personalised to each individual and can be made extra comfortable with beanbags to create a secure and safe space.
For those who like to be visually stimulated, colourful books can be satisfying. Dr Seuss is commonly named as a fantastic author with this in mind. Other authors have specially-dedicated books to help children and adults who have autism. Lynette Dare is an author who specialises in creating humoristic and personalised books for autistic children. She began writing to help her son, who was on the autism spectrum and has created a selection of beautifully colourful books which help make everyday situations relatable for children who can feel overwhelmed due to the effects of autism.
Fidget Toy Cube
A small toy which is ideal for going anywhere, the fidget cube is designed with a total of nine movements and textures to occupy those who are prone to distraction.
Light-Up Fidget Spinner
An item you may be familiar with, the fidget spinner has become a popular toy for many children and adults everywhere. It has been promoted as relieving feelings of anxiety by occupying the hands. With additional lights, it may engage the brain through its visual appeal.
Research has indicated that music stimulates both hemispheres of the brain and consequently has been used in therapy for children who have autism. As music doesn’t necessarily require the use of a spoken language, children and adults can feel encouraged to exercise communications through the sound of music.
One for the garden, a swing is a fun and soothing activity which some children and adults may enjoy. This activity is something we have adapted here at Calvert Trust Exmoor; we have an indoor giant swing which we have introduced to our site as a sensory experience for all to enjoy. Our adaptive harnesses and supports can be customised for each individual and fulfil any requirements they may need. It is used to help with feelings of self-belief and confidence.
Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, we are dedicated to providing holidays that can be enjoyed by all. If you have any suggestions or recommendations about toys in relation to autism, we would love to hear about them! Contact us on our social media channels.
In 2018, over £50 million was raised by the Poppy Appeal. These donations help to care for both current and former members of the Armed Forces and their families. There are a variety of UK charities which have been set up to help former soldiers. The gov.uk website has a vast and useful list of charities in connection to veteran welfare and the service community. In this article, we have chosen a selection of charities which aim to support ex-service personnel who have suffered physical or mental trauma. The charities hold similar values to our own, to have accessibility for all.
Every year, Calvert Trust Exmoor welcomes war veterans for residentials at our five star, all accessible accommodation. For more information, take a look at our accessible holidays in Devon to find out what to expect when you stay with us.
The Royal British Legion- The Battle Back Centre
The Battle Back Centre was created in 2011 by the Royal British Legion. It was implemented to support injured members of the Armed Forces who were hurt while working in Iraq and Afghanistan. It focuses on providing accessible exercise and adventure activities in a safe space for servicemen and women to share and discuss their experiences while growing in confidence. It hopes to help introduce productive avenues for those who attend with their feelings of stress and anxiety. It has more recently developed wellbeing courses for veterans too.
Head to the Royal Legion website for more information or ring:
For serving personnel: 01952 815 670
For veterans: 01952 815681
Combat Stress has worked in supporting former members of the Armed Forces community to deal with the mental effects of their service for an impressive 100 years. It aims to help with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD. It offers various specialist treatment and therapies in three different centres across the country. These include Ayrshire, Shropshire and Surrey and provide both residential and outpatient programmes as well as offering support for substance misuse. Furthermore, Combat Stress has introduced a Peer Support Service, a network created ‘by veterans for veterans’. It aims to provide a secure space for people to discuss their experiences with others who have been through similar situations and is an opportunity for ex-military to socialise comfortably.
A helpline for Combat Stress is available 24 hours a day throughout the year.
For veterans and their families: 0800 138 161
For serving personnel and families: 0800 323 4444
Text service is also available: 07537 404719
The Not Forgotten
The Not Forgotten is a charity which brings ex-service personnel together through social activities and holidays. Help is offered to anyone who has served or is currently serving in :
The Royal Navy
The Royal Marines
The British Army
The Royal Air Force
The Merchant Navy, both Regular and Reserve Forces
The charity aims to inspire confidence through physical tasks, which aim to challenge and inspire feelings of value and self-confidence. The charity also promotes the importance of socialising and creating friendships with fellow ex-service personnel.
To apply, head to the Not Forgotten website and fill in a general information form or print off and send in the post.
This charity has impressively supported for the Armed Forces for over 130 years. They pride themselves on their flexible services which they work hard to adjust and tailor to each individual to ensure help is as effective as possible. Working alongside other military charities, they are dedicated to providing those who seek support are efficiently looked after. These services include both physical and emotional care, including housing, finances, PTSD, addiction and relationship help.
To speak to a Forcesline advisor, telephone lines are available from Monday to Friday, 09:00- 17:30 on 0800 731 4880.
Help for Heros
Help for Heros is a well-known charity which offers support nationwide for those who have suffered an injury and illnesses while serving in the Armed Forces. They offer a recovery programme which has been developed alongside the Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre which aims to either create the opportunity for veterans to live independently or for those who can, to successfully return to their military unit. The Stanford Hall Estate has been developed to make this possible and is a vital part of the programme. The H4H Veterans Clinical Advisor has been implemented to aid more advance injuries that require more complex treatment.
For further information about the support Help for Heros provides, please contact 0300 303 9888.
The NHS is not a charity, but it is worth looking into the help offered which is specific to ex-service personnel. They have a series of services which are designed to support the Armed Forces community across England. These include :
NHS Veterans’ Mental Health Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service (TILS)
TILS was created to help servicemen and women transitioning from their service out of the Armed Forces. The aim is to prevent mental health issues developing further than the early stages by giving support promptly. Other affairs such as finance, employment and housing can also be offered.
NHS Veterans’ Mental Health Complex Treatment Service (CTS)
This could be considered as the next stage after TILS if initial treatment has not shown any signs of significant progress and used for more advanced mental health issues. It consists of intensive therapies and occupational and trauma-focused therapies to treat substance misuse and physical health, amongst other areas which need support.
If you are looking for adventure breaks in the Southwest of England, our accessible site is situated in the peaceful and soothing countryside of Exmoor. For more information on our location, take a look at our blog on Six Top Accessible National Trusts Site in Devon.
Residential trips are an exciting time for all involved. To ensure the trip goes according to plan, preparation is key! Here at the Calvert Trust, we have created a list of recommended items to pack. We have also provided some extra tips to make sure you know what to expect when attending an activity break. For some advice on how to gear your child up for a school residential in Devon, take a look at our blog on How to Get Your Child Excited for a Residential Trip for some helpful ideas!
Look at the Weather Beforehand
Even though the weather tends to be temperamental, having a little look at the forecast can give a general idea of what to expect! Say for example a heatwave is expected, stocking up on sun protection, hats and sunglasses will be essential!
How Much to Pack?
Ideally, you will need to pack enough items to last the duration of the trip, and to be on the safe side, a few extra provisions. Take into account the types of activities you will be experiencing and if any of them will need extra clothing. For example, if the weather is a bit drizzly and bushcraft is on the agenda, an extra pair of socks for that day may be necessary. This is especially relevant for water-based activities like canoeing and sailing as well. It’s not uncommon to pack extra underwear items too.
Don’t Forget Toiletries!
This includes hairbrushes and combs too! For girls, its best to ensure you have any feminine hygiene products regardless of what is expected, just in case. If you do forget, our onsite shop sells them too. For some ideas on what to take, have a look at this list:
The Magic of Layering
When it comes to moderating temperature, layering your clothing is an effective way to do this. Unless the weather is unusually cold, we recommend packing numerous thinner jumpers and tops which can be worn together and removed as temperature increases instead of one thick jumper.
Please include attribution to https://calvertexmoor.org.uk/ with this graphic.
Spending time away from home overnight can initially feel like a daunting idea for both a parent and their child. However, a residential trip is an exciting time for a child to experience their first taste of independence. Residential trips are an opportunity to try new activities, make friends, grow in confidence and discover talents they may never have known they had outside of school! As an accessible site that provides school residential trips in Devon, we routinely witness the positive results of children experiencing our activity breaks. We have compiled some tips to help you to encourage your child to look forward to the week ahead if they are feeling nervous.
Begin by asking your child how they feel about the trip. Ask if there is something that they are worried about or a particular aspect of the residential they may not be looking forward to. It is healthy to help your child articulate any concerns into words if possible. By expressing their worries, it may release a lot of anxiety in itself. Areas they may feel anxious about are sleep arrangements, food and activities. Take the time to go through each worry and give reassurance by creating solutions together. Let them fully tell their story before offering comfort and express it is understandable for them to feel this way.
Create a List of Positives
Following the initial discussion, move the attention away from the initial concerns and create a list of all the possible positives to look forward to. Uncover together the activities your child is enthusiastic to try, the feelings they want to embrace and any scenarios they would like to laugh about.
Turn it into a Poster
After creating a fun and exciting lists of all the positives opportunities coming their way, form it into art! Create a poster of all the fun possibilities to help your child envision the positive outcomes of attending a residential trip. Not only will drawing it out help it sink in, but also the final product can be placed on a wall and used as a reminder of the exciting trip ahead!
‘Flip the Fear’
Natalie Costa, who is responsible for PowerThoughts.co.uk, has an excellent remedy to help encourage children to perceive worries from a different angle. Instead of using the words ‘nervous’, ‘worried’ and ‘anxious’ to describe the overall feeling towards the trip, insert ‘excited’ as a replacement. With the understanding that nervousness and excitement have incredibly similar physical responses, swapping nervous energy with positive energy can be an effective solution.
Look up the Location
The best way to feel more comfortable with a situation is to familiarise yourself. Look up the destination on Google and scroll through the area together. Have a look at pictures of the surrounding sites for your child to gauge what it will be like there. Discover anything the area is famous for and some landmarks to look out for on the journey there.
Arrange a Sleepover
Easing your child into understanding life with your temporary absence can be done through the organisation of a sleepover. This could be arranged at a friends house or grandparents. It will help your child to familiarise you not being there while encouraging fun with friends.
Create a List of Things to Take Together
Compile a list of things your child would like to take on the trip. If your child is going on the residential through a school trip, the school will most likely have a list of essential items to pack. Work with this, and re-write it together, so your child feels like they have some ownership over the experience. You can decide which exact items of clothing you will take and the benefits. A small cuddly toy as a mascot might be an excellent addition too!
After you have produced a list of items, pack them together too! It will help them to feel involved and gear them up for the event.
Imply the Idea of Independence
This may be your child’s first trip without you, which may be scary but is also an exciting introduction to independence. Talk about the trip and all the things they will be able to accomplish on their own. Explain how they will have inspiring stories for you to hear when they return, and you can’t wait.
The Calvert Trust Exmoor is dedicated to providing all residents with a supportive and enjoyable experience. For some inspiration on places to explore in the area, take a look at our blog Six of the Top Accessible National Trust Sites in Devon.
The National Trust is an independent charity dedicated to preserving the nation’s most beautiful dwellings. It focuses on maintaining buildings, but also gardens, nature reserves, coastline and countryside. With such an expanse of locations, it is almost an impossible task to select the best. We have concentrated this blog purely on the area of Devon, as it is close to our hearts and is filled with many scenic sites and locations.
Salcombe Hill is a prominent part of the coastline, situated on the South coast of Devon. The stunning, rustic cliffside dominates the landscape, and it is no surprise the area is regarded as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The spot is an ideal location for a short, easy adventure, just under one mile in length. The route is maintained in perfect condition and consists of gravel paths, making it a fantastic course for wheelchair users or families with pushchairs. Located near Sidmouth, the area provides gorgeous views of Ladrum Bay and High Peak. Be sure to take a picnic to really take your time and enjoy the view.
A popular site in Devon, Killerton is perfect for an exciting day out with a variation of activities. Constructed during the 18th-century, the Killerton estate consists of a stunning Georgian house surrounded by beautiful woods, parkland and farmland, stretching to 6,400 acres in area. The top places to see include a charming garden, fashion exhibition and the old chapel. There is an all-terrain tramper that can be hired for the day but booking well in advance is necessary as it is in high demand.
Located in between two popular surf spots, Croyde and Putsborough, this magnificent section of coastline is an admired national trust location. Loved by many, Baggy Point provides the most stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean as the dramatic rock formation stretches out to sea. The surrounding sea is mesmerising in any condition and is a beautiful spot to take in, while in calm or rough waters. The west side of the point, reachable via Croyde, is an excellent, accessible route, here you may see seals if you’re lucky! The path is well maintained and level, ideal for wheelchairs, trampers and pushchairs.
Castle Droggo is a distinctive castle situated in amongst the dramatic backdrop of Dartmoor. The mighty castle overlooks the atmospheric Teign Gorge and provides an absorbing and fascinating visit for anyone who goes there. A tramper is also available in this site, which is fantastic for anyone who would like to explore the gorge. At the top of the gorge, lies a stunning view of Dartmoor and the proceeding valley. Again, this is also a top-rated site, so booking well in advance is a necessity.
This charming location is situated in the surrounding area of Bovey Tracey. It is a delightful estate, consisting of beautiful beehives, fields, vegetable gardens, orchards and fruit gardens. The idyllic fish pond, in particular, is a pleasant area to relax. If you fancy a little stroll through the gardens or would like to explore further afield in the majestic woodlands, there is something to satisfy everyone.
Hiring the tramper here is free, but donations are appreciated.
The undeniable charm of this stunning gorge lies in the impressive 30m waterfall. You will not be disappointed by the array of beautiful plantation along the river and captivating woodland surrounding the area. It is a magical destination whether in winter or summer seasons, each attractive in their own way.
If you require a tramper, the Lydford Gorge tramper is only available between March and October due to a reduction in Winter staff. It is recommended to book the tramper two days in advance to ensure there is a trained member of team onsite. There are a couple of routes you can take around the gorge; both require accompanied users for safety precautions. One will take you to the bottom of the Whitelady Waterfall. The second is a charming route along the old railway.
We hope we have provided you with some inspiring ideas for your next accessible holiday in Devon. If you would like to learn more about our very own accessible holiday breaks, take a look at our blog on How Can an Adventure Break Improve Confidence for a Disabled Child? for more information.
Outdoor activity and exercise is something that can benefit everybody. It allows us to immerse ourselves in a natural setting, offering us experiences beyond our usual routine. Here at the Calvert Trust Exmoor, we believe it is something that should be encouraged by all, and for all. Opportunities to try new experiences should be seen as a possibility for everyone, no matter their age or ability. We have been fortunate to witness many positive outcomes in the wellbeing of people who attend our residential trips, whether that be for a week or a short break. In this article, we will be focussing on the positive effects of outdoor adventures, and how this type of break can improve a child’s confidence if they have a disability.
What Happens at an Adventure Break?
It is first important to clarify what an adventure break involves. The Calvert Trust, in particular, is an accessible site which provides a variety of activities, for a range of abilities. Canoeing, abseiling, accessible cycling, horse-riding and sailing are just a few activities to name which are accessible at our residence. We have access to equipment which may not be commonly available elsewhere, allowing residents the opportunity to experience completely new activities. Our five-star, fully accessible accommodation is tailored to each visitor, ensuring each guest only has to focus on making the most out of the exciting activities available. With all accessibility needs managed, visitors have the freedom to make friends in a safe environment which encourages them to try new experiences. Our dedicated and qualified instructors remain with the same group of residents throughout the week, forming trusted relationships and building self-confidence.
The Connection Between Physical Health and Mental Happiness
As most of us aware, there is a positive relationship between the completion of exercise and the improvement of mental wellbeing. Physical activity merged with the outdoors is especially relevant in terms of de-stressing and feeling calm. Adventure breaks combine physical exertion, a safe outdoor environment and specialised support all in one place.
In 2015, the campaign ‘Learning Away’ completed a review on the impact of an adventure residential for children with disabilities. It was reported many children felt the residential helped to improve their confidence. Around 80% of both Key Stage Two and Secondary school children felt they were more self-assured to attempt new things as a consequence of the adventure break. It is understood this was a result of positive feelings when completing activities which challenged social, leadership and learning skills.
Feelings of Liberation When Completing Activities
In Ireland, the Government completed a study on ‘Promoting the Participation of People with Disabilities in Physical Activity and Sport’. The research discovered that the completion of physical activities encourages personal empowerment. It seems like a basic concept, but if you complete an exercise or activity, it demonstrates to yourself that you are competent. This feeling of competency is an inspiration to attempt other goals because dictating feelings of self-doubt have been overcome and replaced with the feeling of perseverance.
As a result of encouraging children with a disability to accomplish these types of adventure activities, many children may feel a sense of independence. This could be because the child is open to activities that they may not regularly do. An effect of this exposure is a freshly engaged mind, and a test of determination. New activities encourage the child to practise communication and co-ordination skills, which in turn, reassures them to learn and be proud of what they are completing.
The Role of Sportsmanship and Inclusion During Activities
In many sports, and forms of exercise, sportsmanship plays a vital role. When trying new activities on your own, or as a team, adapting your competitive behaviour is a must. Team events practised at adventure centres encourage participants to work together. The only way to succeed is to communicate efficiently and support other team members, considering each other’s ability and role in the group. As a result, we see children form lasting friendships which take into account one another’s diverse backgrounds and life experiences. This social networking is essential to create a sense of belonging within the child, as well as educating them about social inclusion. Completing activities such as this acts as a valuable reminder of effective socialisation and community building for each child to refer back to. As a result, the child can relate to an example of when they demonstrated skills such as leadership and inclusion and succeeded in teamwork.
Attending an adventure break is an opportunity for a child to experience something beyond what they are familiar with. For some, it is an avenue to demonstrate they have other talents and skills beyond school life, and sparks inspiration for life after education. It can improve confidence in a child as it validates the success of new activities in a friendly social group. It also acts as a reassurance to children that learning something new affects everybody, no matter who you are. Take a look at our outdoor adventure activities in Devon for more information on what to expect.