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.
Our Favourite Residential Activities
Residential trips provide an exciting escape from everyday life. The disability adventure activities available on these kinds of breaks are not only great fun but also offer new experiences that push budding adventurers out of their comfort zones.
Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, we are passionate about the fact that everyone should be able to enjoy a range of activities, no matter their abilities. We host a variety of instructor-led activities, both indoor and outdoor, for children and adults to enjoy.
Whether you’re visiting for a day or staying with us for an adventure-packed week, you’ll get the opportunity to take part in a wide variety of activities that help encourage that ‘I CAN do it’ attitude that we are always championing.
Read about some of our favourite residential activities to discover what’s possible!
Adventure Activities for Disabled People
At Calvert Trust Exmoor, we provide adaptive equipment for all of our activities to support those with physical, sensory and learning disabilities to become fully immersed in each activity – whether it’s cycling or bushcraft, there’s something for everyone to get stuck into!
Our team of qualified instructors will tailor activities to individuals, ensuring that everyone can be included and supported.
The activities offered at the Calvert Experience include:
- Challenge Course
- Crate Stack
- Giant Swing
- Horse and Carriage Riding
As you can see, there’s a lot to experience – but what are some of the best activities to take part in?
This, of course, will largely come down to personal preference and what each guest enjoys. However, how enjoyable an activity is can also be based on embracing a challenge, overcoming fears and learning something new – all of which are things our activities encourage.
Abseiling at Calvert Trust Exmoor
Abseiling is a brilliant activity for those who want to challenge themselves and try something they’ve never done before.
We know that many of our guests have never tried abseiling before and understand that it can be a daunting prospect. However, this is what makes it such a great activity to experience on a trip away!
Abseiling on our all-weather wall provides a brilliant opportunity for guests to build up their confidence and facilitate a sense of achievement, as well as helping work on coordination and motor skills.
The wall and activity is fully accessible; regardless of ability and mobility level, everyone will be able to have a go.
Climbing at Calvert Trust Exmoor
Similarly, climbing is an activity that encourages guests to push themselves and enjoy something completely outside of normal, everyday activities.
When taking part in climbing activities, all of our guests are completely supported – wheelchair users and those with limited mobility can be hoisted up the wall via a harness system.
Guests with limited movement can also make their way up the wall with the support of their friends, family and group members who can help hoist them up and down – all of this offers a great opportunity to build feelings of team spirit and encouragement.
Take a look at our blog post on climbing at Calvert Trust to find out what else you can expect:
The Giant Swing at Calvert Trust Exmoor
We love this activity because it’s so much fun! Having a go on the giant swing involves being hoisted into the air and dropped in a swing, allowing individuals to plunge and soar through the air – an all-around exhilarating experience.
Being ‘dropped’ like this may sound a little alarming, but everyone will be entirely safe and secured into the adaptive harnesses.
Guests who have a go on the swing can choose how far up they are hoisted before making the drop, giving those who are more nervous a chance to experience the thrill without being taken to heights that are too uncomfortable.
The Zip Wire at Calvert Trust Exmoor
Like the giant swing, the zip wire will have you whizzing through the air – another great activity for those that love a bit of a thrill!
Again, our adaptive harnesses are designed to support everyone who wants to have a go at speeding down the zip wire.
Those that want to really make the most of the experience can have a couple of goes zipping along the wire, depending on how many people are in each group.
Canoeing at Calvert Trust Exmoor
For those who like fantastic views and a bit of peace and quiet, there’s no better activity than canoeing at Calvert Trust.
As well as specialist equipment to allow everyone to get out on the water, we also have exclusive use of the surface of Wistlandpound Reservoir. This gives us a safe and controlled environment where our guests get the most out o this experience.
Canoeing with us is a great opportunity for a unique sensory experience that also helps to improve motor skills and learn and develop technical skills.
Horse and Carriage Riding at Calvert Trust Exmoor
A trip to the countryside isn’t complete without a chance to admire the local scenery and all the animals that come with it – in this case, we of course mean our horses!
We know that most people don’t often have the opportunity to interact with horses, which is what makes this activity so special.
Guests are able to meet the different horses and ponies and learn about everything that goes into caring for them. They can also ride the horses or take a drive in the horse-drawn carriage, building up their confidence around these lovely animals.
Please note that the horse and carriage rides only take place during midweek breaks, and are not available for weekend guests.
Whether you want to huddle around the fire and toast marshmallows or head right into the action on the giant swing or abseiling wall, we’ve got something for everything to enjoy. As you can see, some of our favourite residential activities are all about embracing the short time away from everyday life and making the most of the adventure!
If you are interested in finding out more about the Calvert Experience and all the activities we offer, please get in touch.
5 Benefits of Introducing Bushcraft Activities to Disabled Children
Activities that allow children to connect with nature can offer an abundance of learning experiences, opening the door to new skills and ways of looking at the world.
Making these kinds of activities accessible to disabled children is at the heart of what we do at Calvert Trust Exmoor. Our range of disability adventure activities provides exciting experiences for children of all abilities, helping them discover new possibilities.
Bushcraft specifically can be incredibly beneficial for a number of reasons – we talk through some of the most significant ones.
What is Bushcraft?
Bushcraft simply refers to relevant skills and knowledge relating to the outdoors and navigating the natural world.
Our bushcraft activity sessions include things like fire lighting and cooking, campfire storytelling, woodland crafts and shelter building.
Enjoying the outdoors in a safe and supportive environment can provide brilliant opportunities for every individual.
Nature’s Beneficial Impact on Wellbeing
Just taking in the natural world and dedicating time to enjoy it can be incredibly beneficial for people of any age.
It is important to take a step back from the modern, digital world, especially for children who are still developing and changing. Nature has a soothing quality that can help boost mood and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
Spending time in green spaces is vital for all individual’s mental health and wellbeing, so it is vital that we make this accessible to everyone!
Feeding the Spirit of Adventure
Many children with disabilities can have trouble accessing countryside spaces, but we aim to support everyone and cultivate the ‘I can do it’ spirit in all of our guests – we are always interested in showing that there should be no restrictions when it comes to enjoying and learning about nature.
Bushcraft activities help promote a sense of adventure and discovery. These feelings help children find new connections and encourage them to get excited about learning all manner of things.
Toasting marshmallows on an open fire is certainly a delicious adventure that anyone can enjoy!
Providing a New Perspective
Entering the natural world and interacting with it in different ways can be transformative.
Learning new skills in a new space can help children open up as they gain a fresh perspective on the world around them, themselves and others also taking part in the activities.
Bushcraft activities can teach children about science, safety, self-reliance and help inspire a broader understanding of their place in the natural world.
New Sensory Experiences
Doing bushcraft activities deep in nature provides an expansive sensory experience.
With the rustling wind and birds in the trees, there are countless sounds to discover, along with the exciting sights of crackling fires and creepy crawlies.
Children can also engage their senses of smell and taste with campfire snacks after crafting sessions, where they can get to grips with natural materials and the engaging textures of the forest.
Any kind of residential trip that’s full of exciting activities is bound to include a social aspect. There are lots of opportunities for children to make friends as they participate in group activities and explore together.
Working with others is a crucial life skill that can be taught through a range of bushcraft activities as children learn to collaborate and work together.
Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, we offer a range of activities for both children and adults. To find out more about our accessible breaks, get in touch by calling 01598 763221 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to Make the Most of Your Adventure Holiday
Adventure holidays that are packed with activities and fun experiences can feel like a whirlwind. Amidst all the excitement, there are various things you can do to make the most of your break and have the best time possible.
Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, our activity holidays for disabled people provide lots of opportunities to learn new things and create some wonderful memories! We share our top tips for embracing your time spent on an adventure holiday and making the most of all the new experiences.
Before any kind of holiday or adventure away from home, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared for everything to come.
Make sure you think about what you’ll need to pack and how much. You’ll need to consider the best kinds of clothes for adventuring and be prepared for whatever the weather throws at you with both waterproofs and suncream.
It can also help to find out what to expect from the activities you’ll be doing and where you’ll be staying. Knowing what to expect before arriving can reduce any nerves, helping to grow feelings of excitement and anticipation instead!
Don’t Be Afraid to Try New Things
Going on an adventure is all about getting out of your comfort zone and finding new things you didn’t know you could do or enjoy before.
At Calvert Trust Exmoor, we offer a wide range of accessible activities that will probably be totally new to you and our other guests. Having some anxiety before trying something like abseiling or canoeing is normal, but overcoming fears can be a great motivating force, helping to boost your overall experience.
Make Friends and Embrace the Social Aspect
Embarking on an adventure holiday where lots of other guests are also taking part in the activities can be an excellent opportunity for making friends and building up some social confidence.
Try to have fun with the others who are trying out the activities – you’re sharing these unique experiences together, and the friends you make and memories you share can end up being one of the most memorable parts of the holiday!
To make the most of this social aspect of an adventure break, check out our blog below:
Enjoy the Local Scenery!
When on holiday, you are also given the opportunity to enjoy the local scenery and escape to locations different from everyday life. Adventure breaks are great for celebrating the outdoors and taking in all that nature has to offer.
At Calvert Trust Exmoor, we are lucky enough to be situated in a stunning location, surrounded by countryside views on the edge of Exmoor’s National Park – there are plenty of chances to enjoy the local scenery here!
Ultimately, making the most of an activity break comes down to letting yourself be present, having fun and enjoying your adventure!
To find out more about the Calvert Experience and the exciting opportunities offered by our accessible holidays, you can get in touch by calling 01598 763221 or emailing us at email@example.com.
How to Promote Disability Awareness
Roughly 13.9 million people in the UK are disabled. Overall, it can feel like society has some work to do in providing an inclusive environment for disability.
Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, supporting equality for all is something at the heart of what we do as providers of holidays for people with disabilities. In this article, we share some ideas on how to spread and encourage disability awareness! Our list is certainly not exhaustive; there are many other things you can do too, but we hope to inspire and motivate those who may not know where to begin.
Promoting disability awareness is essential in improving equal opportunities for disabled people. It creates a more accurate representation of the reality of living with a disability compared to how it is commonly perceived. For many, it is believed that disability itself is the sole reason why someone faces barriers in their life.
However, it is not a disability 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.
However, the biggest hurdle would also be overcome; the general assumption that disabled people are unable to do certain things. 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.
The first step is to learn about it thoroughly. To do this well, you need to understand 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 about this and why it is crucial.
If you are hoping to spread awareness on a large scale, such as through a social media campaign, it is integral to know the facts and present them properly.
Lead By Example
One of the most significant things you can do is to role model the correct behaviour.
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.
Another vital thing to do is not act out of pity, but instead strive for equality. Make sure to read up on blogs and newsletters by relevant organisations to ensure you are staying updated with the latest information.
One important thing you can do is donate to charities and organisations that support disability awareness; they will already organise events and campaigns to spread greater awareness. However, extra finance can help to develop their hard work even further.
It may not seem like it, but signing petitions for things that you care about can make a huge 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 Social Media Groups
Social media is a great way to stay up to date with key information that interests you, so make sure to follow those groups and organisations that promote disability awareness! You can share what you learn on your own social media channel if you want to spread the news even further than your phone!
We have only touched on a few ways to promote disability awareness. If you have any further advice, why not share it on our Facebook or Twitter pages? To discover more about acceptable disability terminology, take a look at our blog below!
An adventure activity break is a fantastic way to learn more about yourself and challenge yourself with attainable goals while surrounded by a supportive and encouraging environment.
If you are apprehensive about new experiences, booking your adventure holiday can feel like the first big step conquered. However, once you arrive at your adventure break, and you are about to try something new, anxiety can find a way to creep up on you once again.
For some, you may feel excited up until the point you are about to do the activity and then suddenly feel consumed by a feeling of nervousness that you haven’t experienced before or weren’t expecting.
How can you manage this sudden feeling, and what should you do if you are about to attempt your activity?
Here at Calvert Trust, we encourage people of all age groups and abilities to strive for their dreams during our accessible Devon activity breaks. We have plenty of experience with coaching guests through feelings of anxiety and want to share our top tips if you get caught out at the last minute!
For more information about anxiety and the signs, take a look at our blog below:
Accept Your Feelings
The first step is to accept the feeling. It may sound relatively simple, but acknowledging the unsettling feeling is constructive to help you manage it. It is important to remember that your feelings are entirely valid, and you shouldn’t feel embarrassed or ashamed of them.
When you feel secure enough to continue the activity, it will feel like an even more significant achievement for you to be proud of.
Let Someone Know How You Feel
Next, tell someone you trust how you are genuinely feeling. ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’, and being honest about your feelings can help you accept them. You might want to tell a family member enjoying your activity break with you, a friend or an activity instructor.
All of our activity instructors are here to support you; they’ll want to know how you feel so they know the best ways to help you during your stay.
Visualise a Positive Experience
If you can, take some time to visualise what you want to do. This will help you build a positive picture in your brain and encourage you to try the activity you may feel apprehensive about.
Try Breathing Exercises
If you feel incredibly overwhelmed, the NHS website recommends trying breathing exercises when you feel onset anxiety.
This will change your focus from the activity at hand and also help you to regulate your breathing. For more advice on breathing exercises to try, take a look at the NHS advice on their website.
Remind Yourself of the Importance of Being Active
A fundamental way to combat anxiety, in general, is to do physical activity. When you don’t feel like doing the activity at hand, this might not feel easy but trying to remind yourself that it will help lift your feelings can help motivate you to give the activity a go.
If your child is attending an activity break and needs extra encouragement before the trip, our advice on how to get your child excited for a residential trip may help!
We ensure each of our guests has a wonderful time during our activity breaks. We also encourage everyone to conquer their fears with the support of our friendly and qualified activity instructors.
If you are interested in finding out more about the adventure breaks we provide, why not contact us today? We would love to hear from you! Feel free to speak to one of our team by calling 01598 763221 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Encouraging Your Child to Make Friends on an Activity Trip
There are many benefits of visiting an activity centre like ours, such as helping with anxiety or improving mental health. An activity break can also give your child a chance to make new friends, helping to improve their confidence in making friends elsewhere.
Talking to new people can be scary whatever your age, yet for many children connecting with others can be difficult or frightening, especially if they have disabilities. To help, here is our guide to encouraging your child to make friends on an activity trip…
Encourage them before travelling
It can often be beneficial to prepare your children for their trip, from helping them pack to talking about the exciting activities and fun games they’ll be doing.
You could also mention that other children will be there too, possibly doing activities in your group or sitting near you during meals.
You could then suggest that your child talks to the other children, or give them a positive goal, like to find out other people’s names.
Some children may be anxious about this idea, some may not understand the point, whilst others will look forward to it. Whatever your child’s reaction, listen to their response and give them gentle encouragement to interact with others.
Doing this before your arrival gives them time to process the information and be more prepared to communicate with others.
Work out some ‘opening lines’ together
It may be a good idea to practice saying hello in various ways, especially if you predict your child will need extra encouragement to make friends. To assist them further, try to create some opening lines or questions your child could use to start a conversation.
Examples could be ‘My name is- what is yours?’ or ‘I like your jumper’ or ‘What did you enjoy about today?‘
Practising and rehearsing social skills in a safe and warm environment will support your child by teaching social cues. Planning out what they could say can make them feel that bit more prepared to meet new people.
Lead by example and encourage them to follow
Once you have arrived for your activity break, strive to speak to others in a friendly manner so that your children can pick up on it and possibly follow your example.
You could even use the opening lines you created to show them how they can progress and add prompts for your children to contribute or carry on the conversation.
By modelling positive, friendly behaviours, you can guide your children to do the same.
Talk to them about feelings and encourage empathy
Parents can help children develop social skills during a short activity break by focusing on feelings and empathy, which will help build friendships.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the thoughts and feelings of others. Developing feelings and empathy is a complex process that starts from birth and continues throughout our lives, but it is a key factor in making friends.
- Identify feelings, both positive and negative – It’s important to put a name to what your child might be feeling whenever you can. Saying something as simple as, ‘You seem happy/excited/joyful/upset/angry/scared‘ helps a child identify what they are feeling in themselves and can be all they to hear to express their emotions
- Identify feelings in others – In the same way, saying ‘That person seems happy/angry‘ helps children see emotions in others and allows them to identify with them. This can be developed further by using them as conversation starters.
Use feelings to start conversations
During an activity break, giving children prompts increases empathy and provides an opportunity to start a conversation, laying the groundwork for friendship.
For example: ‘They seem happy they did the activity, why don’t you say well done and ask them what they enjoyed the most?’ or ‘That child looks upset, perhaps they are scared of doing the activity. What would you say to them?‘
Likewise, questions related to negative feelings could also allow them to start a chat and connect.
If these prompts lead nowhere, that’s fine. It’s best to not force the situation further, instead make suggestions and allow the children to connect in their own way if they wish to.
Notice and praise caring behaviour
Whether with your prompts or not, make a point of praising your child when they show empathy and engage in a caring way.
You could say how proud you are when you see them being kind and thoughtful to others. State why it was positive behaviour and talk about how it might have made the other person feel.
Positive reinforcement will give them belief in themselves and motivate them to do it again, hopefully increasing the bond between children.
Other issues that children often struggle with are sharing and taking turns. Or they may have difficulty being in a team. When they get these things right, however, it will increase their social skills.
Adventure activities can often be a combination of group work and solo participation. So an activity break is a perfect opportunity to practise their sharing skills and general communication with others.
Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, we have groups no bigger than 10 people, meaning it’s easy for children to talk to others and participate in group activities.
Highlight when and how they shared correctly or gave help to others. They may not have realised they’ve done something positive, so nice comments on how they behaved will support their future interactions.
Experts recommend providing immediate positive feedback, that’s kept brief and simple.
Encouraging your child to make friends on an activity trip – Summary
- Prepare them before the trip so they have time to process the fact other children will be there to talk to
- Practise greeting others and prepare some opening lines
- Lead by example and start conversations, aim to include your child
- Identify positive and negative feelings in other children
- Guide your child to relate to other people’s feelings and to use empathy to prompt them to start a conversation
- When you see your children exhibiting friendly or caring behaviours, such as sharing and taking turns, praise them – this encourages children to repeat the positive behaviours
Finally, parents shouldn’t place social expectations on children and force friendships to emerge from nowhere. They could make one or two good friends during their stay with no need to worry about them being the most popular kid on site.
With over 25 years of adventure breaks at Calvert Trust Exmoor, many children have come out of their shell and made new friends during their stay. Sometimes with help from the ideas above, and sometimes all on their own.
However your children make new friends on an activity trip, it is a magical moment that makes the stay even more worthwhile.
We welcome many families time and time again, on weekend and midweek breaks. They come for the activities and facilities, and also for the chance to meet new people. See more about our family breaks in Devon for additional information.
Residential trips are an opportunity for children to learn, grow, and have fun. Yet for a parent, watching your child leave for a residential can be a daunting or worrying experience. Many parents wonder how their child will behave and will they be safe?
In this news piece, we hope to ease your worries with guidance on how to keep your child safe on a residential trip, even if you will not be by their side…
Learn about the residential
It’s essential to carefully plan for a residential, which starts with knowing all the details. Teachers or group leaders will be arranging the trip but parents, guardians or carers should be involved in several ways.
You could talk to the people planning the residential. Schools commonly hold pre-trip meetings to inform and take questions. If not, consider contacting them directly.
It can seem scary entrusting your children in someone else’s care. So knowing timings, travelling plans, locations and sleeping arrangements will settle your nerves. You can also inform the residential leaders of important information about your child to keep them safe and well.
Talk with your child about their trip
When you have all the details about the residential, you can pass it on to your child in a way they will understand. This helps them get excited whilst also contributing to their safety on the trip as they will be better prepared.
Talk them through where they are going, what they will be doing, and how days will be structured. Listen to any concerns they may have and add reassurance.
Perhaps your child is nervous or unsure about going? The more your child talks about it, the better they will feel. We have compiled some extra tips on how to get them excited for a residential trip.
Discuss safety and boundaries
Another area of discussion is what they must do to keep safe.
Talk to your child about the importance of staying with the group – close to their teacher, group leader or other authority figures, such as activity instructors.
It can be helpful to explain that a residential is fun and thrilling but that they still need to follow the same rules they follow when at home, at school or walking on the pavement.
It’s often beneficial to add extra boundaries unique to their residential. Examples could be emphasising that they must stay in the centre, or that they can’t use the activity facilities until told to by an instructor.
The more conversations you have, the better children will understand the rules, even though you won’t be there to supervise them.
Check out the location
If you know where the residential is taking place, why not spend time with your child looking at it online? Search for the location and see what comes up. There may be galleries on their website or good images on the search engine to go through.
If brochures or itineraries are available, you could go through them together to help get your child excited. Plus it gives you extra opportunities to establish the rules of the trip. If there are maps or plans of the grounds and accommodation, use them to set boundaries, showing where they can and cannot go.
Pack their bags as a team
Get your child involved in the packing of their bags. Since you both know what the residential involves, you can ensure they have everything needed for a good time whilst looking after themselves.
Depending on their age and abilities, kids can contribute in different ways. Let younger ones see what you are packing and explain why each item and piece of clothing is essential. They could then add fun and comforting extras, such as a toy, book or accessories.
Older children could pack their bags themselves, with supervision and guidance if needed. This teaches them to plan ahead, increases independence, and makes them think of their own wellbeing and safety.
Packing together reassures them, and you, that they have everything needed to feel prepared, safe and secure.
See our guide on things to pack for a residential trip.
Make them stand out
One more point about packing is to dress your children in brightly coloured clothes that stand out and avoid dark colours that will blend into surroundings. This will make them easy to see and remember in a crowd or against a natural backdrop.
The colour of their clothing is unlikely to be an issue during a Calvert Trust Exmoor visit, as activity groups are small and supervised by the same instructor throughout. But elsewhere on other residentials, it may be beneficial for their safety.
Make sure contact details are up to date
Confirm that the group leaders have your correct contact details before the residential. Provide one or two additional emergency numbers if you may not be reachable – just in case.
Have faith in risk assessments
Schools and residential leaders will have your child’s safety as their highest priority. They will conduct rigorous risk assessments for every activity and location, whether it be a day out or week away.
A risk assessment must be carried out for each residential, which will help teachers identify and remove any of the potential risks. Schools must adhere to set staffing to child ratios and will keep individual physical, medical, social and behavioural needs in mind before and during a residential.
Schools must also have an emergency response plan to follow if an accident or incident occurs during a trip.
Plus, residential centres have their unique risk assessments and safety procedures with trained staff and instructors who also have everyone’s safety as their highest priority.
Many sites are also audited or inspected by independent boards. For instance, here at Calvert Trust Exmoor we have…
- The Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge
- Five-star activity accommodation status awarded by Visit England
- Been certified by activity bodies such as British Canoeing, the British Horse Society, and more
Residential breaks at Calvert Trust Exmoor
At our activity centre we welcome children of all ages and specialise in accessible breaks for people with physical, learning, sensory or behavioural disabilities. Our residential breaks are based at our remote centre in North Devon, meaning the group stays safely inside the grounds away from busy roads.
The stay will include activities throughout the day, then access to group swimming sessions, the sensory room, and social areas in the evening. Activities, accommodation, meals and facilities are all on-site and included in the costs.
Wherever they are visiting, keeping your child safe on a residential break starts with good communication and ensuring children understand what they should and should not do to keep themselves safe. The residential leaders and centre staff will take it from there to make sure everyone has a wonderful break.
Can outdoor activities help a child with anxiety? Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor we truly believe that the answer is yes!
Read on as we explain why adventure breaks and outdoor activities help with anxiety in children of all ages.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is an emotion that is perfectly normal to experience. It can be described as a feeling of tension alongside worried or negative thoughts. Which is something we all go through occasionally.
However, anxiety can become more than an emotion and start to influence our lives. For example, people with anxiety may avoid situations they worry about. Others may constantly find their emotions hard to control so it affects their lives more dramatically, leading to many anxiety-based disorders of varying degrees.
Those with anxiety disorders frequently worry about and fear everyday situations at intense, excessive, and persistent levels.
Anxiety disorders and mental health are closely related and often influence each other.
Why would a child have anxiety?
There are many reasons why children could be feeling anxious. Key causes of anxiety include…
Separation – younger children tend to experience separation anxiety from parents or loved ones and do not want to be away from them.
Phobias – irrational fears such as heights, bugs etc.
Life experiences – remembering past events that they believe went badly or reflecting on negative feelings can cause anxiety in similar situations.
Social settings – being shy and not confident when meeting new people, or expecting to feel embarrassed, silly, or rejected by others.
Life changes – anxiety can be brought on by changes to the everyday routine, new settings, unfamiliar situations, moving to a new house and school, or the loss of a close relative or friend.
What are the signs of anxiety in children?
Each child displays their anxiety differently, but common signs include…
- Becoming irritable
- Having difficulty sleeping or having bad dreams
- Finding it hard to concentrate
- Losing appetite or not eating properly
- Constantly worrying or having negative thoughts
- Asking lots of questions or needing reassurance
- Feeling tense and fidgety
- Complaining of tummy aches and feeling unwell
- Lack of confidence to do everyday things
- Avoiding activities they previously enjoyed, such as seeing friends, going out or going to school
How can disability contribute to anxiety?
Anxiety can affect any child or adult, but children with a disability may be extra prone to feeling anxiety.
Depending on the disability or condition, a child may have additional difficulties in social settings and may face further struggles with change.
It’s also likely that their life experiences are unique to them and different to those without disabilities; they may feel that no-one else understands what they have gone through and that they can’t do what others can. Many people with disabilities feel social isolation and loneliness.
Therefore, their anxiety rates are high, leading to additional disorders.
It can be difficult for children with learning disabilities to express their feelings of anxiety. They may not understand their feelings and what is causing them, so cannot easily talk about them. Trying to express anxious feelings with limited communication skills can lead to misunderstandings, causing anxiety to intensify.
10 ways outdoor activities can help a child with anxiety…
1 – An improved sense of wellbeing
Outdoor activities usually take place in quiet places, away from the hustle of everyday life, especially at adventure centres like Calvert Trust Exmoor located in the countryside next to a national park.
Just by being in an environment surrounded by nature brings on an improved sense of wellbeing and is relaxing, reducing anxiety in general. Fresh air, trees and pretty views put the mind at ease even at a young age.
2 – An acceptance of new experiences
Structured outdoor activities can encourage an openness to new experiences. Doing new activities helps children learn that they can do things they didn’t think possible. Which reduces fears, worries and anxieties.
The support and encouragement of those around them improves their experience and helps them overcome phobias, improve social confidence, and build positive memories.
3 – A new way of thinking
By going through new experiences, children can develop a new way of thinking.
For example – a child abseiling for the first time has probably never thought about how to abseil before. In the build-up, they may nervous and worried about falling. Yet with the help of Activity Instructors and those around them, the child will learn about the equipment, how the ropes work, and will take on important information. This makes them focus on how to abseil rather than worrying about whether they can or not, reducing anxiety.
Also, overcoming outdoor activity fears can develop resilience and mental toughness whilst creating positive memories, reducing anxiety in the future.
4 – An increase in confidence and independence
There is often a huge sense of accomplishment and excitement during outdoor activities which improves confidence and self-belief.
Completing an activity teaches a child that they are competent and good enough to do it, acting as an inspiration to attempt other goals. Feelings of self-doubt are overcome and replaced with perseverance – improving confidence and lowing levels of anxiety.
Many children also feel a sense of independence. This could be because they become open to doing activities and exercises that we may not regularly do. An effect of this is a freshly engaged mind and fresh determination.
5 – Different stimulation
Being outdoors doing activates provides different and new stimuli. By embracing them, children can increase their ability to be in unfamiliar places. Seeing, smelling, hearing and doing new things becomes less overwhelming, and the idea of somewhere ‘new’ doesn’t seem as daunting.
6 – A connection with others
A sense of belonging and community can form between children when in an unfamiliar environment. The process of doing new activities together connects children, especially when several of the group are anxious.
This shared feeling of anxiety is what bonds children who have just met, and they can quickly form a team or friendship.
7 – Acquiring new skills
By doing outdoor activities, children can learn skills whilst improving general coordination and motor skills. In the long run, this improves self-confidence and allows them to see themselves in a positive light.
Anxiety reduces as they build confidence and experience different ways to learn and succeed.
8 – Reduced stress
It is well documented that stress and fatigue, caused by any number of things, can contribute to anxiety. A stressed child could struggle to deal with their feelings, so anxiety grows.
Outdoor activities help overcome phobias such as heights, encourage socialising and offer positive life experiences, reducing stress and lowing anxiety levels.
9 – A feeling of responsibility and control
As listed above, children can have anxiety because of what they are going through at that moment in time. Giving them the responsibility and control over the situation helps reduce fears.
During outdoor activity sessions, the children always feel in control of their own actions. A child may be encouraged to take part, but it is ultimately their decision if they do or not. Subconsciously this reduces anxiety as they always feel in control and make their own decisions.
10 – An improvement in mental health
As previously mentioned, anxiety can have an impact on mental health and vice versa. We have another news piece focusing on how breaks at an adventure centre can improve mental health and therefore help with anxiety.
At the Calvert Trust Exmoor centre, we often meet anxious children who do not think they will enjoy their stay or are worried about doing certain outdoor activities.
Then they have a wonderful time and love every activity. The children conquer their fears and leave with a positive mindset.
If nothing else, children spending time with family or friends causes them to relax and enjoy the experience, helping them to understand anxiety and developing their skills to get past their worries in other settings.
We provide outdoor activities in a safe environment, with trained instructors who really get to know the children, which also helps with anxiety.
There is an abundance of things to do in North Devon, throughout the year.
Whether you are in the area for a day, are looking for holiday inspiration, or are planning on staying at the Calvert Trust Exmoor centre for a residential activity break, browse our guide about what to do in North Devon and Exmoor.
Exmoor National Park
Exmoor National Park is a stunning place to spend time. The picturesque landscape consists of rolling moorland and wooded areas, home of roaming ponies, Red Deer and postcard-worthy beauty spots.
Exmoor is one of the smallest national parks in the UK, so the area is easy to explore in a short time on foot and by car.
Whilst exploring, it is likely Exmoor ponies will make an appearance. These adorable and distinctive animals are endangered, so they are well looked after despite roaming free. Ponies can be seen on the moors, often crossing the roads as they please.
We recommend visiting these places to experience what Exmoor has to offer…
Right beside the Calvert Trust Exmoor centre, Wistlandpound Reservoir may be just outside the national park, but it is a popular attraction for those who enjoy walking through nature. The accessible paths zig-zag their way around the water and through woods. Whatever the time of year or weather, this is a beautiful place to escape the real world for a few hours.
In the middle of a valley, lies a historic clapper bridge – made of large stone slabs and boulders. At 55 meters long, Tarr Steps is the longest bridge of its type in Britain, possibly dating back to the Bronze Age. The bridge forms a part of a short circular walk through the wooded valley and along the riverbanks. It’s a popular location and walking across the bridge is a must-do. Technically Tarr Steps is in Somerset, but it’s not far from North Devon so we’ll include in our list of things to do.
Similar to Tarr Steps, Watersmeet is a place to see rapid rivers at the bottom of a valley. Named due to its location where two rivers meet, there are waterfalls and paths along the sides of the river, plus routes around the surrounding area. The river is home to otters and salmon, or look inland for Red Deer, herons, wood warblers and jays. There is also a National Trust tearoom, providing a place to relax amongst the surrounding nature.
Valley of Rocks
Found near the village of Lynton along the Exmoor coastline, the Valley of Rocks is a well-known tourist destination for families and walkers who enjoy the stunning views. The dry valley is home of feral goats that roam the steep hills and the stone towers that rise sharply into the sky. Paths loop around the area, providing views of the sea and cliffs that make for stunning photographs.
Great Hangman – England’s highest cliff
Found near Combe Martin in North Devon, the highest cliff in England is in Exmoor. Combe Martin is a good place to park (just 10 minutes from Calvert Trust Exmoor) before walking along the coast and up to the height of 1,044 feet. The views of the surrounding moors and cliffs are worth the hike up the sometimes tricky incline.
The highest point on Exmoor and the second-highest point in southern England, Dunkery Beacon is 1,704 feet above sea level. On a sunny day, it’s possible to see the Bristol and English Channels, the Brecon Beacons in Wales, Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, Dartmoor in Devon and even Cleeve Hill which is nearly 90 miles away in Gloucestershire. The beacon is found in the remote heart of Exmoor, surrounded by barren but beautiful moors – luckily the car park is just half a mile away from the peak.
Popular North Devon Tourist Attractions
North Devon is home to many family-friendly attractions, which are perfect for quick visits or complete days out.
Here are some top North Devon places that are worth a visit…
Quince Honey Farm
The home of honey and bees, Quince Honey Farm is 20 minutes from the Calvert Trust Exmoor centre, in South Molton. This small and quaint family attraction provides beekeeping courses and experiences, guide tours, honey tasting, candle rolling, critter encounters for children and more. There’s also a play area and a restaurant to round your visit off.
This conservation zoo is home to a range of animals such as wolves, cheetahs, African wild dogs, bugs and snakes, monkeys, kangaroos, and many varieties of cats including the famous ‘Exmoor Beast’ – black leopards!
Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park
Another family-friendly zoo, with the added twist of electronic dinosaurs. There is also an indoor soft play area for younger children. Animals include lions, penguins, sea lions (who do daily shows), wolves, monkeys, Amur Leopards and more.
Arlington Court is a National Trust property with a historic house, formal gardens, a carriage museum and acres of land to explore. The grounds are open all year round for walkers, with paths that go through forests, past lakes, and around fields where deer are known to forage.
The Big Sheep and The Milky Way Adventure Parks
These two theme-park type attractions are each a day out for all ages. They both have indoor and outdoor play areas, rides, live shows, games, and all-round family entertainment.
A visit to The Big Sheep includes cuddly animals and fun sheep racing!
Whilst The Milky Way has a space theme with bumper cars and a new ninja family area.
The village of Clovelly is unique, as it’s a working fishing village with no cars and historic cobbled streets that tumble down the hill to the harbour. A trip here starts at the visitor centre, before walking through time down the main path, past old houses, shops and museums to the sea below. Donkeys once pulled carts up the hill, but these days the donkeys enjoy the easy life, living in the stables and meeting passers-by.
Marwood Hill Garden – Tucked away in a quiet valley near Barnstaple, the 20-acre garden at Marwood is made up of three ponds surrounded by a collection of plants and trees, a lovely haven to relax and enjoy nature.
RHS Rosemoor – Just outside Torrington is the RHS Garden Rosemoor, a year-round attraction for the whole family. There are beautiful formal and informal flowerbeds and plantings, separated into many different gardens, alongside woodlands and meadows.
Castle Hill Gardens – Home to the 15th generation of the same family, Castle Hill is a grand building that dominates the hill it sits on. The 50 acres of gardens and parklands that surround it are open to the public, made up of woodland and formal gardens brought together by the family since 1730.
Towns and Villages to Explore and Shop
From small and quaint villages to large bustling towns, you’ll find a friendly place to spend time wherever you go in North Devon. We’ve listed just a few of the most popular here, but there are many more to be found, and some hidden gems tucked away…
Lynton and Lynmouth – Lynton is perched at the top of a hill whilst Lynmouth sits below at the bottom, connected by a 130-year-old Cliff Railway – the world’s highest and steepest water-powered railway. Lynmouth has a stone beach with a dramatic coastline and seaside town feel.
South Molton – known as the gateway to Exmoor, South Molton is a small and historic market town.
Barnstaple – the unofficial ‘capital’ of North Devon, Barnstaple is the place to shop popular high-street brands and independent retailers.
Ilfracombe and Verity – the seaside town of Ilfracombe has a little bit of everything; shops and restaurants, family attractions, striking coastal views, rock pools and beaches. The picturesque harbour is the focal point of the town, where a historical chapel overlooks the modern statue of Verity by Damien Hurst – the second tallest statue in the UK.
The North Devon beaches are always worth a visit, at whatever time of year. They are popular because of good surf, long golden sandy beaches and the stunning surrounding countryside. Some dominate the landscape. Whilst others are small, secret and hidden away.
Looking for a long sunny day on the beach? Or want to blow the cobwebs away with a walk by the sea during the winter months? These are some of the beaches you could visit…
Saunton Sands is a classic beach, with three and a half miles of sand that disappear into the distance, blue seas and dramatic dunes. Facilities include a large car park, café and beach shop for a full day out. Lifeguards are on duty for most of the year, making it a safe place to swim, surf or play on the beach.
Woolacombe beach is multi-award winning. Like Saunton Sands, there is a long expanse of sand and sea, with lifeguards, shops and facilities. The beach is backed by the village of Woolacombe, which has additional shops and restaurants.
Again, Croyde is a sandy beach, popular with surfers and sunbathers alike. This beach is perfect for rock-pooling as it’s set in a small bay, with rocks on either side of the sand. Facilities are on site, with lifeguards in summer. Croyde village is nearby, with coastal walks to the village and around the bay.
Now for something different. Broad Sands is not a large and well-known beach, it’s a secret gem that many locals wish to keep to themselves. Broad Sands is a small cove hidden on the coast of Exmoor, and it’s an adventure to get to. It’s not reachable by road, but by parking at the top of the cliff and taking a path and 200 steps down to the sand. The path goes through woods and offers spectacular views. Once at the sand, the beach is quiet, remote, picturesque, and perfect for a swim.
Ilfracombe Tunnels Beaches
Found in the town of Ilfracombe, the Tunnels Beaches are unique. Originally a historic Victoria bathing bath, the shingle beach has a ringed rock formation that creates a natural swimming pool, with the rocks separating the still water from the sea. To get to the beach requires walking through the cliff, using the large hand-carved tunnel. The pool is a calm place to swim. Tunnels Beaches has Blue Flag beach status and the Quality Coast Award. There is also a lifeguard on duty, and it’s been listed as the safest beach in North Devon.
We’ve summarised just some of the many things to do in North Devon, there are plenty more places and attractions to be discovered.
If you would like to visit and need accessible accommodation in North Devon, enjoy an activity break at Calvert Trust Exmoor. Stay for a weekend, Monday to Friday, or for seven days and you’ll have time to visit some of the places we’ve mentioned, in between doing exciting activities.
Phone 01598 763221 for more details and to book. We look forward to welcoming you in for a North Devon break soon.