Autism is often referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). When it comes to understanding autism, it is important to remember that autism is considered a spectrum, and encompasses a range of disorders or experiences rather than just one. Consequently, each individual who has autism has different levels of sensory sensitivity.
With years of experience providing accessible holidays in Devon, at Calvert Exmoor, we cater to a broad spectrum of needs and understand how important it is that people with autism create and achieve self-care goals.
As such, we’ve created some helpful tips for those who would like to introduce self-care goals to an autistic person’s routine. In this blog, we aim to share these.
Why Are Goals Important For People with Autism?
Setting goals, whether big or small, can act as a motivational tool. It is a way to make changes accessible by implementing little lifestyle habits that are easy to repeat.
Having goals can open up more opportunities to gain greater independence in certain aspects of our lives as they offer us a sense of control. Lots of small goals over time can encourage us to make changes beyond what we would have previously thought possible.
Introducing Self-Care Goals
Some individuals who have autism can find organisation challenging. Using prompts and breaking down tasks into manageable steps can help introduce initially difficult tasks to someone who has autism.
This could include things such as:
- Getting dressed
- Brushing teeth
- Brushing hair
- Packing a bag
- Making their bed
How to Achieve Self-Care Goals
As previously mentioned, splitting tasks into smaller steps will help them become more manageable. There are a range of ways you can approach this, including:
‘Forward chaining’ is a method that The National Autistic Society has recommended. This process involves teaching a skill by breaking it down into smaller, manageable steps, helping to achieve the overall aim.
For example, when brushing your teeth:
- First, take the toothbrush
- Next, rinse the toothbrush with a little bit of water (this step may be an area of debate!)
- Then put a ‘pea-size’ amount of toothpaste on the toothbrush
- Then a drop of water (again, debatable!)
Again, this is a method suggested by the National Autistic Society, except this implements the task steps by working from the last step backwards.
Maintain a ‘Sensory Record’
As you try to introduce small goals, we recommend keeping a diary of the reactions caused by certain tasks or scenarios. By taking note of these occurrences, the process can be reviewed and adapted in the future to accommodate the triggers of unease and uncertainty discovered by these records.
A gentle, sensory experience with toys may help ease some symptoms of anxiety and provide relief from overstimulation.
An excellent way to implement new things, especially for children, is to use illustrations. Leaving pictures as reminders will prompt them to follow the procedure displayed.
For example, the National Autistic Society has suggested putting a diagram, or list, in the bathroom which demonstrates the steps when brushing teeth. You can use pictures found online or create your own.
The National Autistic Society suggests that using a mixture of physical, gestural and verbal prompts can help people remember the order they need to accomplish the breakdown of tasks.
As the name suggests, this form of prompt is done by accompanying the person as you complete the activity.
For example, holding the toothbrush together and squeezing toothpaste onto it.
This is where you can pretend to do the task to prompt them to follow through with the action. For example, miming brushing your teeth as they brush their teeth in real life.
A verbal prompt is when you remind the person of the next step by saying it to them. For example, ‘rinse the toothbrush and put it in the holder.’
In order to help schedule these priorities, providing a calendar is a handy tool for people to refer to and act as a reminder.
To encourage people to achieve their goals, keep it motivational! One of the more successful ways of doing this is through praise. No matter what the task, even if it may seem very minimum, an achievement is an achievement and should receive lots of praise.
By knowing what the person appreciates, you can make the encouragement purposeful to the individual. This may be through verbal praise or a small gift, for example.
If you ever notice a decline in a loved one’s self-care routine, this could indicate underlying issues concerning their mental health. This could be anything from anxiety or depression to forms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
If you feel this may be the case, the National Autistic Society recommends contacting the Autism Helpline, where they can direct you further on the most suitable procedures to take.
Autism Friendly Activities at Calvert Exmoor
Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, we offer accessible activities for people with autism and a range of other disabilities. We love to encourage all our guests to achieve their ambitions and intend to help those who want to set goals while staying with us.
For example, why not give archery a try? This activity offers a pleasant sensory experience for people with ADHD and/or autism, allowing our guests to unwind and gain a sense of accomplishment.
We take great pride in our certified instructors, who encourage independence when supervising activities by using physical, gestural and verbal prompts.
Daily timetables ensure there is a set routine for our guests. We also encourage using our social areas, where guests can meet and support one another before and after sessions.
Our facilities are tailored to assist all kinds of disabilities; for people with autism, we provide a sensory room that contains various receptive toys.
The wide range of adaptive activities and support we provide is only made possible with your help, so please consider supporting us however you can to ensure our guests can continue to feel empowered and confident during and after their stay with us.
Hopefully, the tips mentioned in this blog will offer some helpful pointers for accomplishing self-care goals! If you have any other recommendations, we would love to hear about them on our social media channels like Facebook!
If you would like more information about the Devon activity breaks we offer and are interested in booking a holiday with us, please feel free to contact us on 01598 763221 or email us at email@example.com.
There is an abundance of things to do in North Devon no matter the time of year.
Here at Calvert Exmoor in Devon, we provide a wide range of activities for people with disabilities, ensuring everyone can make some wonderful memories and enjoy the local area.
Whether you’re in the area for a day, are looking for holiday inspiration, or are planning on staying at Calvert Exmoor for a residential activity break, there are some great things you can get up to.
Browse our guide to discover 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 and is home to 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 on foot and by car.
Whilst exploring, it is likely Exmoor ponies will make an appearance. Sadly, these adorable animals are endangered, so though they roam free, they are well looked after. These ponies can be seen on the moors, often crossing the roads as they please.
If a pony sighting inspires you to try horse riding, discover the horse riding activities available at Calvert Exmoor.
Visit these places to experience what Exmoor has to offer:
Wistlandpound Reservoir is located right beside our activity centre and although it may be just outside the national park, it is a popular attraction for those who enjoy walking through nature.
The paths zig-zag their way around the water and through the woods. Whatever the time of year or weather, this is a beautiful place to escape the real world for a few hours.
If you want a more exhilarating way of exploring these paths, take a look at our cycling activities which also take place on the routes around the reservoir.
In the middle of a valley lies a historic clapper bridge made of large stone slabs and boulders. At 55 metres long, Tarr Steps is the longest bridge of its type in Britain, possibly dating back to the Bronze Age.
Technically, Tarr Steps is in Somerset, but seeing as it’s not far from North Devon we’ll include it in our list of sights to see!
The bridge forms a part of a short circular walk through the wooded valley and along the riverbanks – it’s a popular location for a reason. Taking a stroll across such a distinctive landscape is a must.
Similar to Tarr Steps, Watersmeet is a spot where you can see rapid rivers at the bottom of a valley. Named after its confluence, Watersmeet features waterfalls and paths along the sides of the river, plus routes around the surrounding area.
Regarding local fauna, the river is home to otters and salmon. 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 vista.
Valley of Rocks
Found near the village of Lynton along the Exmoor coastline, the Valley of Rocks is a prominent tourist destination for families and walkers to enjoy the stunning views. Wild goats roam the steep hills and stone towers that rise sharply into the sky in this dry valley.
Paths loop around the area, providing views of the sea and cliffs that make for stunning photographs.
Great Hangman – England’s Highest Cliff
Near the small seaside resort of Combe Martin in North Devon lies the Great Hangman, the highest cliff in England.
Combe Martin is just 10 minutes from Calvert Trust Exmoor and has parking spaces available for you to begin your venture. Then you can walk along the coast and ascend to a height of 1,044 feet.
The incline may be tricky, but the views of the surrounding moors and cliffs are worth the hike.
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 get vast views of 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!
As you can see, Devon has some of the most incredible countryside scenery in the UK, but some of these spots might be slightly trickier to access for some people.
There are still plenty of ways for everyone to enjoy the natural wonders of the area. Make the most of your holiday by taking a look at all the wheelchair-friendly trails in North Devon in our blog below.
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 around 20 minutes from the Calvert Exmoor centre in South Molton.
This quaint family attraction provides beekeeping courses and experiences, guided 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 wide range of animals such as wolves, cheetahs, African wild dogs, bugs, snakes, monkeys, kangaroos, and many varieties of cats — including the famous ‘Exmoor Beast’: black leopards!
Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park
This is another family-friendly zoo — with the added twist of electronic dinosaurs! These animatronic displays provide an opportunity for both an educational and exciting experience.
Regarding the real animals, they include lions, penguins, wolves, monkeys, Amur leopards, sea lions (who do daily shows), and more! In addition, the site features an indoor soft play area for younger children.
Built in the early 19th century, Arlington Court is a National Trust property with a neoclassical country house, formal gardens, a carriage museum and acres of land to explore.
The grounds are open all year round for walkers — excellent for dog owners — with paths that go past lakes, through forests, and fields where deer are known to forage.
The Big Sheep and The Milky Way Adventure Parks
These two theme-park attractions are each a day out for all ages. They both have indoor and outdoor play areas, rides, live shows, games, and family entertainment.
A visit to The Big Sheep includes cuddly animals and fun sheep racing.
Meanwhile, The Milky Way has a space theme with bumper cars and a fun ninja family area.
The village of Clovelly is a unique landmark as a working fishing village with no cars and old-fashioned cobbled streets that tumble down the hill to the harbour.
A trip here starts at the visitor centre where the main path will take you to a bygone era of old houses, shops and museums which will then lead to the sea below. Donkeys once pulled carts up the hill, but these days, donkeys enjoy the easy life, living in the stables and meeting passers-by.
Retreat to an idyllic haven at some of the most beautiful gardens North Devon has to offer.
Marwood Hill Garden
Tucked away in a quiet valley near Barnstaple, the 20-acre land at Marwood Hill Gardens is made up of three ponds surrounded by a collection of plants and trees. It features a cafe for the family to retreat to at the end of their walk. Marwood is a lovely haven to relax and enjoy nature.
Just outside Torrington is the RHS Garden Rosemoor, a year-round attraction for the whole family. There are beautiful formal and informal flower beds 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 maintained by the family since 1730.
Villages and Towns to Explore and Shops in North Devon
From cosy, 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. They are 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 a pleasant seaside town feel.
Known as the gateway to Exmoor, South Molton is a small, historic market town. Dog friendly and laid back, this is a perfect family getaway location.
The unofficial ‘capital’ of North Devon, Barnstaple is the place to be if you miss the creature comforts of urban life and want to peruse popular high-street brands and independent retailers.
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 the iconic St. Nicholas chapel overlooks the modern statue of Verity by Damien Hurst — the second tallest statue in the UK.
Beaches in North Devon
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?
If you want to know how accessible beaches in North Devon are, check out our blog below:
North Devon beaches are always worth a visit, whatever the time of year. They are popular because of good surfing conditions, long golden sandy beaches and the stunning surrounding countryside.
Some dominate the landscape whilst others are small, secret and hidden away. These are some of the seaside areas you could visit:
Saunton Sands is a classic beach, with blue seas, scenic dunes, and three and a half miles of sand that disappear into the horizon. 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 a multi-award winning location for holiday destinations. 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.
Croyde is another sandy beach, popular with surfers and sunbathers alike.
This spot 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. There are coastal walks to the nearby Croye village and around the bay.
Speaking of surfing, Calvert Exmoor gives everyone the chance to have some fun with watersports. If you’re not convinced, discover the benefits of surfing for people with disabilities to enhance your break.
For something different, discover Broad Sands beach. This beach is not a well-known one, 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. This place can’t be reached by road; instead, you have to park at the top of the cliff and take a 200 step path down to the sand.
The path winds through the woods and offers spectacular views. Once on 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 a unique area.
Originally a Regency-era 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.
Getting to the beach requires walking through the large hand-carved tunnels of the cliff. There you can find calming pools to swim in.
Tunnels Beaches has Blue Flag beach status and the Quality Coast Award. There’s no need to worry about safety as Tunnels Beaches has a lifeguard on duty and is listed as the safest beach in North Devon.
Accessible Activities in North Devon
At Calvert Exmoor, we’re passionate about delivering accessible activities for people of all abilities. There are wonderful areas to explore in North Devon, but not everywhere is adapted for the needs of people with disabilities.
We provide a range of activities for disabled people with specialist equipment to make your holiday both safe and fun! Take a look below at some of the opportunities we provide:
Our archery sessions have a wide range of bows, techniques, and targets to discover! This popular activity is a relaxed way of developing self-esteem and is great for group bonding.
A challenge course is a fantastic way of encouraging people with disabilities to overcome obstacles in new ways. The challenge course activity is cleverly designed to not be too demanding but still provide just enough difficulty and fun for a real sense of achievement.
Many people with disabilities don’t get to feel involved in daring activities. Giving them the chance to glide through the air on our giant swing will be a delightful sensory experience.
Each activity has adapted equipment for various needs and qualified instructors will supervise these sessions to maximise enjoyment and safety. Seize your chance to experience thrilling adventures with the whole family!
We’ve touched on just some of the many things to do in North Devon, there are plenty more places and attractions to discover!
A break with us provides the perfect opportunity for you to visit all these remarkable locations. Our fully accessible accommodation is the ideal place to stay for an activity break, designed with accessibility in mind for people of all abilities.
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 inclusive activities.
For more information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our expert team! We look forward to welcoming you for a North Devon break soon.
Cycling is an enjoyable and rewarding activity for people of all ages and abilities. It encourages you to spend more time outdoors, boosts mental and physical fitness and is loads of fun, to name just a few of the benefits!
Thanks to these benefits, cycling is a particularly good activity for people with disabilities. As the interest in inclusive cycling grows, so too does the availability of adaptive bikes and accessible cycling activities.
Here at Calvert Exmoor, we offer a range of exciting adventure activities for people with disabilities, and cycling is among just one of the experiences our guests can get stuck into.
Find out everything you need to know about accessible bike riding.
What is Accessible Cycling?
This form of cycling allows people with a range of disabilities to experience the activity to the fullest extent and on their own terms.
Any kind of accessible activity is about ensuring everyone, no matter their ability or circumstance, feels comfortable and able to participate. This is often achieved with adaptive equipment like the adaptive bikes used for accessible cycling.
There are several kinds of adaptive bicycles that help cater to the needs of different individuals.
What Types of Accessible Bikes are Available?
The range of different adaptive bikes means that anyone can find something to fit their requirements.
Adaptive Low Step & Electric Bikes
These are standard pedal bikes with some modifications that help the user with pedalling or getting on and off the bike.
Low step bicycles have a low frame, which can be helpful for people who have limited movement and find it challenging to get their leg over a regular frame. This makes mounting and dismounting easier for anyone with reduced flexibility or mobility. Additional cranks and extensions can be added to accommodate different individuals.
Electric bikes have also grown in popularity in recent years. While we don’t currently have any in the fleet here at Calvert Exmoor, they can be used to help people who cannot comfortably do physical exercise for sustained periods, supporting them as they cycle further distances.
Accessible Trikes & Tricycles for People with Disabilities
Tricycles function like a standard bike but have three wheels rather than two for a heightened sense of stability.
This makes them especially useful for people who need more support when it comes to balance and coordination, as the third wheel reduces the chance of wobbling and falling over.
Regular pedal tricycles can also be adapted to become handcycles to suit the needs of each individual.
Handcycles for People with Disabilities
Accessible handcycle bikes are powered by pedals that are moved by the hands rather than the feet. These pedals power and steer the bike. You can find three or four-wheeled models to help with balance.
These kinds of accessible bicycles are popular choices for people with little to no lower body mobility and those that want to work on increasing upper body strength.
Handcycles are often recumbent bikes but are also available in a range of styles.
Recumbent Bikes for People with Disabilities
An accessible recumbent bike allows the user to recline slightly in the chair, sitting further back rather than leaning forward over the handles.
This offers further support to the back and puts less strain on the rider’s knees and hip joints, offering a more comfortable experience.
Some recumbent bikes are much like standard two-wheel bicycles, just with larger reclined seats and a higher pedal position setting them apart. However, you can also get accessible recumbent bikes that are closer to the ground, which allows for even greater accessibility and support with balance.
Tandem Bicycles & Side-By-Side Bikes for People with Disabilities
As the name suggests, bikes that have a larger frame and multiple seats allow two (or more) people to cycle together.
These bikes can be especially useful for people with visual impairments and sensory or emotional disabilities who may need support or guidance when it comes to steering or pedalling.
Side-by-side bikes are available with three and four wheels and allow users to ride alongside each other.
Wheelchair Accessible Bikes
Wheelchair users may feel that riding a bike is not possible for them, but this is just not the case with the help of wheelchair cycles.
These adaptive bikes have handles, saddles and pedals at the back, allowing one of two people to cycle and steer, while the front houses a seat for wheelchair users to sit in or a platform that their wheelchair can sit on.
Wheelchair bikes allow anyone with little or no mobility to experience the thrill of cycling, enjoying the ride with a friend or family member on the cycle behind them.
The Benefits of Accessible Cycling
Because of the perceived and real barriers in society, many people with disabilities may feel like they cannot go bike riding or may have limited opportunities to exercise, especially when doing adventure activities.
This lack of opportunities can lead to feelings of isolation and other issues with mental health as well as physical health.
Here at Calvert Exmoor, we’ve seen the advantages of accessible cycling first-hand and know what a positive impact it can have. Discover how cycling can be beneficial for children and adults with disabilities.
Focus & Repetition
For some, the process of simply getting on and off a bike may pose a challenge. Others may struggle to concentrate fully on the task of cycling.
Trying something new or challenging offers a fantastic opportunity to learn and develop. And if you don’t know how to ride a bike or are having to re-learn, there are some great skills you’ll pick up along the way, notably, determination.
Developing new skills can be incredibly rewarding and motivational. Once you’ve got to grips with your bike of choice, cycling can become a therapeutic and relaxing experience.
If you’re interested in building on your new outdoorsy skills, why not find out more about orienteering with a disability? It’s another activity that will encourage you to develop concentration and appreciation of the natural world.
Supporting Physical Health
As cycling encourages you to move and get energetic, there are a host of physical benefits to be enjoyed, including:
- Improving balance
- Providing gentle exercise without strain
- Supporting strength and overall fitness
- Helping regulate weight and stabilise blood sugar levels
- Building muscle and circulating the blood
- Helping people stay active for longer and delays the onset of various conditions
Supporting Mental Health and Well-Being
Along with the physical benefits, cycling can also offer a wealth of mental benefits, including:
- Providing feelings of empowerment
- Giving a sense of independence
- Boosting self-esteem and positive self-belief
- Reducing social isolation
- Provides an opportunity to spend time in nature
Providing Social Benefits
Joining a cycling club or going to an accessible activity centre can be a great way for people who typically feel isolated to meet new, like-minded people and broaden their social horizons.
Using tandem or wheelchair bikes offers a more social bike riding activity, allowing riders to work together and build a connection.
Cycling can be even more enjoyable when done with a family member, carer or friend – you’ll share the physical work while still encouraging social interactions, teamwork and trust.
Accessible Cycling at Calvert Exmoor
Cycling is an incredibly popular activity with our guests – and for good reason!
The cycling path around the picturesque Wistlandpound Reservoir can be challenging, but that makes it all the more rewarding. The hallmark Exmoor views offering tranquil water and woodland scenes certainly don’t hurt either.
Our range of bikes includes tricycles, handcycles, recumbent bikes, wheelchair bicycles and tandems to ensure that you can find the right equipment to suit your needs, no matter who you are or your ability.
An instructor will help everyone find a suitable bike before you’re free to whizz around the route or take things at a more leisurely pace.
The bike riding sessions tend to last between two and three hours, with plenty of opportunity for a break halfway through, ensuring everyone can get the most out of the activity without becoming worn out.
Don’t just take our word for it! Head over to our guest stories to find out what people liked most about the cycling activities and their time with us.
With access to different kinds of adaptive bikes, there are plenty of ways for anyone to get involved in accessible cycling at home. However, if you cannot get your hands on a suitable bike or want to try cycling alongside a plethora of other inclusive adventure activities, an accessible activity holiday might be for you!
Can’t wait to get in on the action? To find out more about booking a stay with us, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team.
Abseiling involves repelling down a vertical drop, whether from an artificial abseiling wall or cliffside, supported by a rope. There’s no denying that this is an extreme activity (not to mention loads of fun) that pushes people out of their comfort zones.
One question we get asked when guests start booking an accessible activity holiday with us is ‘can we really do activities like abseiling, even with disabilities?’
The answer to this is yes, absolutely! Ensuring everyone, no matter their ability, can participate in exciting activities that may traditionally be seen as more exclusive daredevil activities is at the very heart of what we do at Calvert Exmoor.
Abseiling Facilities at Calvert Exmoor in Devon
Accessible abseiling is one of our most popular activities, with many guests excited to rise to the challenge of taking on our abseiling wall when they visit.
The outdoor abseiling wall is suitable to use in all weather conditions, so come rain or shine, you’ll be able to have a go at making the descent!
We use and maintain the ropes and safety equipment every day to ensure our expert instructors can provide a safe and adaptable activity to make sure everyone feels comfortable.
Can Anyone do Abseiling?
Yes, anyone can try abseiling! Abseiling can be adapted to the individual participating, and our instructors will work with you to find the most comfortable way for you to have a go at this exciting activity.
We use harnessing, safety equipment and ropes to ensure everyone can make their way down the wall at their own pace. Manual wheelchairs can also be used if needed.
Everything You Need to Know About Accessible Abseiling Sessions
At the start of a session, the activity instructor will lead the group to be fitted out with harnesses, helmets and any other necessary equipment.
Once everyone is appropriately kitted-out, groups will be taken to the viewing area at the top of the wall for a full safety briefing before taking it in turns to abseil down.
Before starting this activity, our instructors ensure each person is secure and understands how to travel down the wall. Two people can abseil side by side, or individuals can go down on their own, depending on how they prefer to tackle the wall!
How Can Abseiling be Adapted?
There are several variations on how the activity can be adapted for different disabilities. Below, we explore what you can expect from all our adaptations.
There is nothing stopping wheelchair users from abseiling – in fact, we think it’s a must-have experience to include on a wheelchair-friendly activity break!
We may use the term ‘abseiling wall’, but it would also be accurate to describe the wall as a steep ramp. The top and the bottom of the wall/ramp are curved, allowing wheelchairs to easily roll over it.
Abseiling Support for Wheelchair Users
To ensure this activity is as accessible as possible, we have a specialist wheelchair that is specifically designed for abseiling. Most guests choose to transfer into it manually or with a hoist. Other manual wheelchairs may be suitable depending on whether the instructor deems them appropriate.
Please note that if you use an electric wheelchair, you will not be able to use it when abseiling and can instead use our abseiling chair.
Once comfortably in the chair and navigating down the abseiling wall, guests can control their speed using the rope system with their hands. Anyone unable to hold or use the ropes will be supported by the instructor.
Wheelchair users on the abseiling wall will have another person abseiling down beside them to provide support if needed and ensure the descent goes completely smoothly.
Abseiling Support for Those with Sensory Disabilities
For those who are deaf or have a hearing impairment, instructors can create a system that encompasses rope tugs as a means of communication. The instructor will be in sight of guests who require this at all times for constant visual cues.
Guests who are blind or have a visual impairment will be guided down by the voices of the instructors and the person abseiling beside them.
Abseiling Support for Those with Learning or Behavioural Disabilities
We understand that it can be difficult for people with learning or behavioural disabilities to concentrate and focus or fully understand what they are being asked to do. This, of course, does not mean abseiling is off-limits.
With abseiling, we find that the process of putting on harnesses and helmets before going to the top of the wall breaks the session into several stages and ensures the experience doesn’t feel too overwhelming. This also gives guests time to adapt and allows instructors to go over how the activity will happen once again.
The group will see the wall from the bottom before walking to the top, so everyone has time to process the activity. Instructors will patiently repeat what needs to be done as many times as needed to see the whole group abseiling successfully and confidently.
If they wish, children or adults with learning or behavioural disabilities can also abseil first before focus is lost.
What are the Benefits of Abseiling?
So now you know you can do it, but what about the why?
Aside from abseiling being a thrilling adventure, it can also support participants to develop problem-solving skills, motor skills and coordination – you will be travelling backwards after all!
Abseiling Boosts Confidence & a Sense of Accomplishment
After abseiling, there is often a huge sense of accomplishment and excitement after guests have achieved something they may not have thought possible. This improves confidence and self-belief.
Here at Calvert Exmoor, our expert team is always on hand to make sure everyone feels their best and most accomplished, especially when abseiling for the first time.
When you succeed at abseiling, it can boost your confidence to try other activities that might have seemed challenging initially. Accessible climbing is another favourite with our guests!
Abseiling Helps You Face Your Fears
Abseiling can push you far out of your comfort zone, especially if it’s something you’ve never thought about trying before. Facing one fear can often create the determination to tackle other challenges with the same enthusiasm.
While abseiling may seem daunting, once you’ve done it, that rush of feeling like you can do anything is next to none!
Abseiling Helps Build Trust & Communication
Guests will be with their group and instructor throughout the duration of their stay, so there is always a social element to our activities and holidays.
All members of the group bond as they get to know what they are doing and become more comfortable. During this shared experience, guests will inevitably build up a good rapport with those around them.
When abseiling individually, the group will watch and provide support. When abseiling in pairs, talking to each other is essential as you descend side by side. The activity encourages friendships and builds relationships, whether you’re enjoying it with friends, family or other members of the group.
Having a disability should never hold anyone back from doing exciting outdoor activities, especially something as enjoyable as accessible abseiling!
Here at Calvert Exmoor, we are dedicated to ensuring adults and children can participate in numerous inclusive adventure activities and enjoy their stay with us to the fullest. If abseiling or any of our other activities sounds like something you or someone you know would love, get in touch with the Calvert Exmoor team today.
Going away on an adventure is always exciting no matter your age – whether your child is venturing on a school residential trip or you and your family are planning an accessible holiday, there’s a lot to look forward to.
But before the excitement can begin, you’ll need to think about preparing for the trip and organising everything that needs to be packed.
Preparing for an Accessible Activity Holiday
The accessible adventure breaks we offer here at Calvert Exmoor are designed to be enjoyed by everyone; we are dedicated to ensuring all our guests can take part in a diverse range of exciting, accessible activities and, most importantly, have a brilliant time!
While a stay with us is all about having a go at things you might never have done before (and having loads of fun), we understand that some guests may be anxious about their stay and unsure what to expect.
Making sure you have everything you need for your journey and holiday is a practical way to temper some of this wariness to ensure you can focus on making memories and trying out new activities.
We’ve provided a basic holiday packing list and some additional preparation tips to help you stay organised for your time away.
To get more of a sense of what to expect from a break with us, you can read our guide to weekend breaks at Calvert Exmoor.
Packing List for Accessible Adventure Holidays
Many of our activities take place in the great outdoors, so it’s important to take this into account when deciding what to bring along.
There might be a couple of essential everyday items that you’ll need to pack, but it isn’t necessary to go out and get a whole new wardrobe for the different activities you’ll be doing!
So, what will you need?
Appropriate Shoes & Footwear
You’ll likely need a couple of pairs of shoes to suit the different activities you’ll be taking part in. We recommend considering:
- Durable shoes: Walking boots or Wellington boots are ideal for exploring outside, especially where it’s wet or muddy.
- Trainers: You may need a couple of pairs, including backup trainers, for when you do water-based activities.
- Sturdy shoes: Boots or shoes with a small heel are necessary when horse riding, so consider this if you’re looking to participate in the activity.
- Waterproof jacket or coat: This will keep you dry and warm throughout your adventure.
- Waterproof trousers: These might not be absolutely essential but will come in very handy if the weather takes a turn, or you just want to feel more prepared.
- Trousers: Tracksuit bottoms or comfortable trousers are ideal – jeans will be less comfortable when taking part in activities. You may also want to bring shorts if that’s what you prefer but note that full-length trousers are mandatory if you’re horse riding.
- Jumpers and T-shirts: You’ll likely want a couple of thin layers, so you can bundle up when cold but easily take off layers when you get warmer.
- Casual clothes and sleepwear: Practical clothing is best for when you’re out and about doing activities, but when you relax in the evenings, you may want to change into more comfortable clothes.
- Socks and underwear: Remember to bring plenty to last for the duration of your trip!
- Swimwear: You’ll need this for swimming in the pool and for any other water-based activities. Goggles can also be useful, and you’ll need a couple of towels too.
The British weather can be more than a little temperamental, so it’s often best to pack for a couple of eventualities.
Before you set out on your trip, looking up the weather forecast will give you an idea on which items to prioritise. Weather-specific items that you’ll need to consider include:
- Waterproofs: These will keep you dry and comfortable.
- Sun protection: If the sun makes an appearance, you’ll probably want a hat or cap, sunglasses and plenty of sun cream.
- Cold weather clothing: If the weather’s going to be a little chiller, you might want to bring along a woolly hat, scarf and gloves.
Remember to Pack Toiletries
Aside from clothing, you’ll need to pack a bag of everyday hygiene items and toiletries, including things like:
- Soap or shower gel
- Shampoo & conditioner
- Towels & flannels
- Toothbrush & toothpaste
- Hair ties & clips
- Comb or hairbrush
- Feminine hygiene products
Specialist Personal Equipment
While we have a wide range of accessible equipment here at Calvert Exmoor, to make your stay as comfortable as possible, you may want to bring along any specialist personal equipment in order to ensure that you have everything you need to feel relaxed during your stay.
This could include items such as wheelchairs, hearing aids or any specific medical equipment; whatever you need to feel at ease, we’d encourage you to pack it.
Holiday Packing Advice
If you’re worried about forgetting anything, making a physical packing list to tick off the items can be helpful – this will also help ensure you or your child don’t forget anything when returning home.
Adding labels to your personal items and clothing may also be useful, especially for younger adventurers.
If you’re packing things like phones or cameras, remember to take their chargers and perhaps a secure bag to ensure they’re kept safe over your stay. Books and journals can also be great things to bring along for when you have a quiet moment in the evenings and you want to reflect on the adventures and activities you’ve enjoyed during your stay.
If there’s anything else that you can’t go without during your day-to-day routine, remember to pack this too – there’s no reason why you can’t be as comfortable as possible when you book an accessible trip away.
Once you’ve packed your bags, you’re all set to enjoy your break with us!
If you’d like to find out more about our accessible outdoor activity holidays, whether for families, schools or other groups, please get in touch with the Calvert Exmoor team.
How Can SPELL Support People With Autism?
Life for people with autism can be made more challenging by an exclusive society. Many people with autism may communicate in different ways from neurotypical 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 people with autism. What are the benefits of SPELL, and how can the structure support communications for people with autism?
What is the SPELL Framework?
Developed by the National Autistic Society, SPELL is a guideline that can help those interacting with people with autism 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 a Person With Autism
Using SPELL provides a useful baseline when it comes to supporting people with autism. The guidelines it gives can be adapted for people of all ages.
The five principles focus on assessing the unique needs of individuals with autism and explore the ways we can change our environments to make communication more accessible and effective. How can each element support people with autism?
Many people with autism 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 people with autism 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 neurotypical person communicates with someone with autism, 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 a person with autism. 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 people with autism 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 people with autism can gain a better understanding of the most productive ways to communicate with and support them.
It should be noted that everyone 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 a someone with autism 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?
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 people autism.
Educating yourself on how a person with autism might communicate is one of the most helpful ways to reduce confusion for everyone. It’s important to note that no two people with autism 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 people with autism.
Historically, wider society has perpetuated assumptions that people with autism 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, someone with autism 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 people with autism 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 people with autism will behave and talk. People with autism 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 People With Autism Communicate?
As mentioned, there is no one size fits all – people with autism are not a homogeneous group. That being said, many individuals 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 a person with autism, 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 a person with autism might have trouble understanding sarcasm, metaphors, and humorous language.
While talking to someone, an individual with autism might also:
- Change topics quickly – it can be difficult for some people 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 – people with autism 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 People With Autism
Avoiding eye contact may help someone with autism 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 people with autism to make eye contact with you during a conversation as, for many individuals, this might cause undue stress and discomfort.
How to Talk to a Person With Autism
By looking at how people with autism 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 someone 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 a person with autism 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 people with autism 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 people with autism 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
People with autism 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 people with autism 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 Adults With Autism
Most of the tips above will apply to conversing with people with autism of all ages. However, one of the most important things to do when talking with an adult with autism is to address and converse with them as you would any other adult, and not as a child.
A person with autism 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 others.
How Do Children With Autism Communicate?
Children with autism 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 Children With Autism
Language is often simplified for all children but is especially important for children with autism as they are still learning about metaphors, double meanings and sarcasm.
When speaking to a child with autism, 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 people with autism 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 guests with autism 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 people with autism 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.
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.