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.
As an accessible centre that provides activity holidays for people with disabilities, we offer exciting adventure activities that help push individuals out of their comfort zone. We’ve seen first-hand how breaks away like this can boost a person’s confidence and self-esteem, no matter who they are or their circumstances.
Showing that everyone matters and should be able to experience all kinds of things is at the heart of what we do here at Calvert Exmoor. Whoever you are and whatever your ability, we believe it’s what you CAN do that counts.
We work hard to provide an environment of support and know how important it can be to reach out to others when you are struggling.
Checking in With Your Mental Health & Seeking Help
Over the past years, there has been a necessary and welcome surge in mental health support and awareness, making understanding your own mental health and recognising the signs you may need to seek help more accessible.
For many who struggle with mental health challenges, reaching out to seek others’ help is a turning point. Whether this means checking in with a family member, friend, medical professional or support line, this step is often one of the first steps to help you get to a better place.
However, knowing this doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to take those initial steps. If you are struggling yourself or want to support someone you love, there are numerous things you can embrace to make reaching out to others easier, helping to improve wellbeing and happiness.
The Benefits of Having a Reliable Social Support Network
Sometimes being on your own for a while is necessary as a bit of time to yourself can help you work through problems or uncertainties.
However, too much time on your own can become unhealthy, especially over prolonged periods. Humans are social beings, so it is important to have social networks we can trust and turn to when things become difficult.
A sympathetic ear or the presence of someone we can trust can help prevent, or at least ease, feelings of isolation, alienation and rumination.
Knowing you have a trustworthy network of people to turn to can:
- Improve your ability to deal with stress and anxious feelings
- Boost your self-esteem and social skills
- Improve overall health and wellbeing
Not Everyone Finds Talking Easy
For many, the idea of being honest about their feelings or asking for support makes them feel vulnerable, which dissuades them from confronting their difficulties.
While it can feel overwhelming to talk about your problems, it’s important to remember that those who you care about want to listen so they can help support you.
If you talk to someone about your feelings and they haven’t quite reacted the way you thought, this is also okay. We all have different life experiences, and just because a conversation hasn’t gone as you may have hoped doesn’t mean that someone else might not understand.
The person you’ve opened up to may feel unequipped to support you because of their own issues; this does not mean there aren’t other people you can turn to who will be able to help.
If you feel like you don’t have friendships you can rely on, remember it is never too late to open yourself to new experiences, find friends and join new social networks. As life and our circumstances change, so too can our support networks.
Seeking out a local group that celebrates one of your interests or even going on an adventure holiday that can improve mental health can expose you to new people and give you the opportunity to make lifelong friends.
Bonding with like-minded people can also put you in touch with others who have shared similar experiences and can offer advice on how they would deal with a situation.
How to Reach Out to Someone Who is Struggling
If you know that a loved one isn’t quite themselves, sometimes giving them the space to reach out is required.
However, if your loved one hasn’t connected with you in some time, it may be time for you to open the conversation by letting them know you are around to listen without pushing the issue too much.
By opening the door to communication, you allow them to move at their own pace, ensuring they don’t feel ambushed or shamed.
Creating a Safe Space
If you want to offer support, creating a safe space where your loved one feels like they can explain their thoughts, feelings and worries is essential.
It is not your place to judge, only to show you care about their struggles and will do what you can to help, whether this means helping them seek professional support or just being a friendly face to chat to at the end of a hard day.
It’s Not All About Talking
As much as talking about our problems can offer relief, building healthy, supportive relationships relies on more than just having the tough conversations. Simply spending time with someone and taking part in activities together can be extremely beneficial.
This shows you are there for the good times and hard times, proving you to be a reliable presence in someone’s life and a friend they can lean on.
One of our goals at Calvert Exmoor is to bring people from all walks of life together to enjoy a range of fantastic accessible adventure activities in Devon. If this sounds like something you or a loved one would enjoy, get in touch today to find out more about the accessible holidays we offer.
How to Promote Disability Awareness
There are roughly 14.1 million disabled people in the UK. This number may surprise some as disabilities are not always visible or openly discussed.
Although many charities and disability advocates have worked tirelessly over the years to bring more visibility to various disabilities and help give disabled people a voice, there is still a long way to go when it comes to the mainstream promotion of disability awareness.
As providers of adventure holidays for people with disabilities, creating an inclusive, welcoming environment and supporting equality is at the heart of what we do.
To that end, we share some ideas on how to promote and encourage disability awareness in your community! Our list is certainly not exhaustive, but we hope to inspire and motivate those who may not know where to begin.
Why is Disability Awareness Important?
If you are not disabled, chances are you know someone or numerous people who are, yet there is still much misinformation and ignorance surrounding disability. Because so much of the non-disabled population is unaware of the barriers disabled people face, the flaws of society can go unaddressed.
Promoting disability awareness is about considering how we can work together to recognise and remove social and workplace barriers to create more inclusive environments for all who have dealt with discrimination because of disability.
Creating Equality Through Education
Learning more about disability is essential in improving equal opportunities for disabled people. Accessible education helps more people understand the reality of having a disability compared to how it is commonly perceived.
Some believe that disability itself is the sole reason why someone faces barriers in their life. However, it is not an impairment that hinders a person but a discriminatory environment that doesn’t accommodate diversity.
With more awareness comes the opportunity for a more accessible and equal world. This would transform the day-to-day lives of disabled people by improving things that many non-disabled people may take for granted, such as access to buildings or other facilities.
The general assumption that disabled people are unable to do certain things can also be challenged through increased awareness. Assumptions like this can include the belief that a disabled person is unable to:
- Live independently
- Have children
- Be employed
These types of assumptions need to be addressed and changed.
Using the Correct Language to Talk About Disability
Awareness campaigns often begin by starting a conversation. The kind of language we use in these conversations can have a significant impact on others’ perceptions of disability.
Educating yourself on current and preferred disability terminology is essential. If you hear others using hurtful or outdated terms, do your best to inform them about inclusive language in a productive manner.
Words and their definitions will change and evolve over time, so make sure to keep informed about the most up-to-date language.
You can learn more about how to talk about disability in our guide to acceptable and unacceptable disability terminology.
Becoming informed doesn’t stop at the correct language usage. To develop a deeper understanding of disability, you need to appreciate the impact that a prejudiced society can have on people with disabilities, understand how many people it affects and how you can support changing it.
There are many organisations out there to help inform people, including:
If you are hoping to spread awareness on a large scale, such as through a social media campaign, it is integral you know the facts and present them properly, so make sure to get educated by recognised sources.
Lead By Example
It is important to model the correct behaviour, so others can take your lead when they themselves are not informed – this might be within your friendship group, family, workplace or wider community.
If you witness anything that undermines a disabled person, it is important to speak up. Ensure that everyone interacts with respect and genuine support, especially in public situations where others may copy your behaviour.
Don’t act out of pity, but instead strive for equality and meaningful change.
Disability Awareness and Inclusion in the Workplace
There are many ways workplaces can become more inclusive, with training and workplace initiatives becoming more common over recent years.
Places to start when opening up the conversation about inclusion in the workplace include:
- Encouraging volunteering opportunities
- Facilitating fundraising events
- Hosting training sessions on unconscious bias or barriers in the workplace.
Engage With Inclusive Media
Media, whether this means books, TV shows or movies, can at times offer a narrow view of the world, often not representing disabled people or doing so poorly. Seeking inclusive media can be a great way to bring disability awareness into the everyday life of people of all ages.
Positive portrayals of a disabled person help remove harmful stereotypes about disabled people not being able to do certain things or living their life in a certain way.
Look for media that uplifts disabled voices; stories and the media can do wonders for changing perceptions and societal norms, challenging views that disabled people are defined by their disability.
Support Charities & Donate
Change cannot be made through awareness alone; you also need to take direct action. Supporting charities and donating where you can is one great way to further the cause of disability awareness and support other disability campaigns.
Even if you cannot donate, offering your time as a volunteer can be another effective way to support your local charities.
It may not seem like it, but signing petitions for things that you care about can make a difference.
If there are petitions that you feel can change the lives of disabled people, whether national or local, you should support the cause that is close to your heart and your beliefs.
Follow Disability Awareness Groups on Social Media
Social media is a great way to stay up to date with key information and events, so make sure to follow groups and organisations that promote disability awareness!
This also allows you to share relevant information on your own social media channels to help spread awareness to your followers and beyond.
Disability Awareness Months & Days
Numerous organisations host awareness months for various disabilities throughout the year. These kinds of campaigns generate public awareness and prompt more people to get involved through donating and volunteering.
UK Disability History Month is an annual event that aims to discuss the oppression of disabled people in the past and present and provides education to ensure individuals can work towards equality and become agents of change. In 2021, the campaign takes place from the 18th of November to the 18th of December.
The International Day of Persons with Disabilities is another awareness campaign held every year on December 3rd. This campaign focuses on highlighting disability issues and discussing the changes that can be made to promote equality and inclusivity in all societies.
We have only touched on a few useful ways to promote disability awareness here; there are plenty more ways to get creative and show your support. If you have any further advice, please share it with us on our Facebook page; we’d love to hear from you!
If you’d like to find out more about our accessible adventure holidays and the inclusive activities we offer, please get in touch.
Among our accessible facilities, our site at Calvert Trust Exmoor includes our accessible riding stables, so school groups, families and much more can all enjoy a day out with our extended family – our horses and ponies.
We include horse riding as it is a sport where everyone can get involved and make memories together. The sport has been recognised to help support physical and emotional development while also helping people feel happier and more confident.
Calvert Trust Exmoor’s Accessible Riding Stables
Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, we have our very own on-site riding school. We are recognised for having a high standard of facilities and are approved by the British Horse Society. We have a BHS-Accredited Professional Coach among our team, and our carriage driving instructors are trained to British Driving Society standards.
On each session, our committed team work together to ensure that your experience with Calvert Trust Exmoor is as inclusive as possible. Our horses are specially selected and trained to ensure that they have the right temperament for our guests to interact with and the right size for riding.
Horse Riding for People with Disabilities at Calvert Trust
We constantly strive to make all of our facilities as accessible as possible, to share our experiences with each of our visitors. Guests are provided with several different activity options during their time at our stable school so that we can cater to all disabilities.
Horse based activities are a great way to develop confidence, increase independence, and hone new skills in an inclusive and enjoyable way. Our friendly horses and specially-trained staff give everyone a sense of calm and wellbeing while supporting our guests to challenge themselves and have fun.
Riding School Activities and Sessions
Individuals are offered a variety of activities that include riding a horse, playing games and improving their confidence around horses. For those unable to mount a horse, we also offer a carriage riding experience, where you will be able to take the reins and drive!
When on a session at our riding school, we ensure that everyone meets and interacts with various horses and ponies. We support things like stroking during our sessions, as this sensory experience supports the development of motor skills and nerve connections.
We even provide the opportunity to learn more about horse behaviour and ‘how to speak horse’, alongside other stable management tasks such as grooming, tacking up, and mucking out.
As well as getting your hands dirty, we also offer opportunities to experience pony agility sessions, where you will work with the pony to get over and around various obstacles.
It’s worth noting that our horse and carriage riding sessions are only available on midweek or full-week breaks; they do not take place at weekends.
To ensure our horses and ponies’ health, there is a weight restriction for our guests who wish to participate in riding and carriage driving.
What are the Overall Benefits of Horse Riding for People with Disabilities?
A 2018 study demonstrated that horse riding is a therapeutic activity for young people and children. Over the course of the study, it presented a great range of positive health benefits for various diagnoses, including developmental, physical and behavioural.
Horse riding helps individuals to gain more confidence and express who they are. By building their confidence, you’ll see a wonderful change in mood, self-esteem and self-belief. The ongoing development of self-confidence supports the individuals to get more involved and socialise with others.
Horse riding can also help increase a range of movement; this is because the horse allows the pelvis, spine and other associated muscles to work together as they would if they were walking. This rhythmic movement relaxes tight and stiff muscles, improving their core, coordination and balance.
As well as this, horse riding helps participants gain a greater awareness of their body’s capabilities! As well as supporting the strength of their body, the horse’s movement motivates participants to look up from the ground and grow awareness and interest in their surroundings.
Sense of Accomplishment
The horse’s immediate feedback in response to the rider’s actions helps individuals discover a new set of skills and guide the horse. By experiencing this accessible activity, participants often feel a sense of success and mastery. Overall, this empowerment helps participants to build on their self-advocacy and make independent choices.
Due to the nature of horse riding, riders are presented with many opportunities to interact with others in the group, including the horses. Accompanied by their growing sense of self-esteem, riders are more likely to develop their communication skills and connect to those around them.
Adapt to Change
Experiencing change can often trigger anxiety; horse riding presents various opportunities to help riders overcome this. In the study, some riders began to accept and seek change freely. This experience allows riders to experience less anxiety, demonstrate their courage and adapt to situations much quicker.
Benefits of Carriage Driving
We understand that not all of our guests can horse ride due for a variety of reasons. To ensure that each of our guests gets to share the experience with one of our horses, we also provide carriage riding and driving.
Carriage riding supports our visitors to improve:
- Muscle power
As well as supporting the driver’s physical abilities, the experience can be quite soothing, helping the driver relax thanks to the rhythmic movement of the horse pulling the carriage and the added benefit of being out in the open air.
Benefits of Horse Riding for Cerebral Palsy
Horses have been used to help treat cerebral palsy since the 1970s. Methods like hippotherapy have been used to help support and enhance individuals’ neurological and physical abilities. The approach was first discovered in the 1960s; it was based on the learned and spontaneous reactions that naturally evolve from riding a horse.
Horse riding is an enjoyable activity that offers riders benefits in a range of physical areas, such as:
- Muscle strength
- Weight shifting
- Joint flexibility
- And much more!
Not only does horse riding have a great range of physical benefits, but it also offers a great range of psychological ones! Reports have shown that children with cerebral palsy that enjoy horse riding can develop improvements in:
- Cognitive development
- Courage in movement and position change
- Overall mood
- Confidence and sense of responsibility
Benefits of Horse Riding for Brain Injuries
Animal Assisted Therapy has been shown to significantly improve the communication skills of those who have suffered brain injuries.
Studies have shown that using animals, such as horses, as a means of therapy has led to a significant increase in social behaviour, including verbal and non-verbal communication. One major component of this stems from the individual’s motivation to care for the animals, which often inspires them to do tasks they might usually struggle with.
Benefits of Horse Riding for Autism
Studies have shown that children with autism can acquire long and short-term benefits from horse riding. Direct contact with horses has been shown to reduce irritability and hyperactivity.
Researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus have documented a great range of short-term benefits for autistic children who have engaged with horseback riding. Human-animal interactions have been proven to support the improvement of emotional health and social wellness.
Within these results, the children riding horses showed a reduction in irritability and hyperactivity. As well as this, they also showed an improvement in their social skills and word fluency.
After following up their results, the researchers found that horse riding had lasting benefits on the riders. The children had maintained their reduction in irritability and growth in social skills and word fluency.
Benefits of Horse Riding for Down Syndrome
Horse riding is an excellent activity for people with down syndrome; it provides sensory stimulation for muscles and joints and helps to support the development of balance and movement.
The sensory activity is very tactile, as it often includes stroking, hugging and patting the horse. This is important for any form of special needs as it helps build the brain’s nerve connections, improve cognitive growth, and support the development of motor skills.
Horse riding is also a great way to instil confidence in riders and develop memory, strength and coordination, while still providing a fun and exciting experience.
Benefits of Horse Riding for ADHD
Animals have been proven to be beneficial for people with ADHD, especially children.
If a child runs up to a horse impulsively, the horse might withdraw, but if the child calmly approaches the horse, it will respond more positively. Horses have been used throughout therapy to help people with ADHD to connect to others.
While riding, horses respond to verbal and non-verbal communication through their reigns and the rider’s legs. Experiencing this form of communication can be very effective. Not only is the overall experience calming, but it requires teamwork, too, increasing the rider’s focus and organisation skills.
Benefits of Horse Grooming for Dementia
A study has shown that people who suffer from dementia experience a boost in physical activity and ease in symptoms after caring for horses. While spending time with the horses, researchers found that people who have dementia experienced an immediate lift in mood.
The study also demonstrated a clear improvement in overall behaviour; even those who often acted withdrawn were fully engaged with the experience. As well as this, caring for horses instilled a motivational cause to push their physical boundaries, like walking unassisted or standing from their wheelchair.
We hope this article has helped share some of the benefits that horse riding provides for people with disabilities. If you want to find out more about our activities, contact our team or browse our blog.
Using acceptable terminology to talk about disability is not merely about being ‘politically correct’ – it is about removing barriers, changing assumptions and creating an inclusive environment that welcomes all.
As an accessible activity centre that welcomes those of all ages and abilities, here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, we are committed to ensuring everyone has a better understanding of inclusive language and behaviour.
We understand that, for many, using the wrong language comes from being unaware rather than being willfully hurtful; so, it is important that everyone does what they can to educate themselves and help spread awareness of the proper vocabulary to use when discussing disabilities.
How to Talk & Write About Disability
It should be noted that not everyone will agree on what exactly is acceptable or unacceptable. However, while there may be some disparity when considering the correct terms on an individual basis, there are some general language guidelines that you should be aware of.
If you are unsure about what words and phrases to use, you should ask the person you are talking to to find out which terms they are comfortable with, as different individuals may identify with certain things.
Language is constantly evolving as definitions change over time and disability advocates become more prominent, so it is also vital to keep up to date with acceptable language and remain sensitive to the changes.
The recommendations that inform this guide come from the Government website, the NHS, and various disability-specific charities that work with disability advocates to establish inclusive language guidelines.
The Social Model of Disability & Language
Developed by people with disabilities, this model concludes that individuals are disabled by the barriers that society inflicts, not by their impairment.
Language plays an essential role in this model as using the correct language helps change cultural assumptions and encourages the use of positive terms over negative and medical terminology.
Some may not relate to the social model of disability, so again, it is important to have conversations with the people with disabilities in your life to understand which terms they consider appropriate.
General Inclusive Terminology
You should not use the term ‘the disabled’ when referring to a collective group; instead, use ‘people with disabilities’ to put emphasis on the fact that individuals are not defined by a disability – the term disabled is descriptive, not a group of people.
Acceptable: people with disabilities
Unacceptable: the disabled, the handicapped
In regards to accessible facilities:
Acceptable: accessible toilets/parking, parking for blue or orange badge holders
Unacceptable: disability-friendly, disabled toilets/parking
You should also avoid using terms like ‘able-bodied’ as this implies people with disabilities are unable – instead, use ‘non-disabled’.
Individuals & Their Disabilities
When referring to individuals with disabilities:
Acceptable: has ‘x’/has a diagnosis of ‘x’ (name of the condition, e.g. autism, depression, epilepsy)
Unacceptable: illness, suffers from, handicapped, invalid
You should avoid negative terms relating to illness as some may not consider themselves unwell or ‘having a condition’. The term ‘diagnosed with’ is also unacceptable to some as it centres a medical professional’s opinion rather than an individual.
When talking about autism:
Acceptable: person with autism, person on the autism spectrum
Unacceptable: people living with autism, an autistic
When talking about Asperger’s syndrome:
Acceptable: it is a form of autism
Unacceptable: it is not a rare or mild form of autism
When discussing mobility:
Acceptable: wheelchair user, walks with a mobility aid
Unacceptable: mobility problems, wheelchair-bound
Saying someone is wheelchair-bound implies they are restrained or restricted, so the preferred term for most is ‘wheelchair user’. For many, this term more accurately represents the experience and doesn’t perpetuate stereotypes.
Many people may avoid engaging with the topic of disability and the correct terminology for fear of saying the wrong thing. However, learning about acceptable terms can go a long way to make people feel more included and accepted by society.
If you would like to learn more about our accessible adventure breaks and our work here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
You can also find a rundown on what to expect from a weekend away with us below.
Please include attribution to https://calvertexmoor.org.uk/ when using the graphic in this article.
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.
At Calvert Trust Exmoor, we believe that every child should have access to adventure activities, especially children with disabilities. Therefore, we strive to provide the very best adventure breaks possible and encourage children of all abilities to visit our accessible centre in Devon.
Adventure activities of any kind are fun, exciting and educational. They encourage being outdoors, doing exercise and making friends. Plus adventure breaks help build independence and personal growth. The overall benefits are vast and ongoing, whatever the circumstances.
But did you know we’re the only disability centre of our kind in the south of England? Which means visiting us has its unique advantages. Here are the benefits of visiting Calvert Trust Exmoor for a child with a disability…
They will be well looked after
Everyone’s safety and happiness should be a top priority during an adventure break. So we have published some tips for choosing an accessible activity holiday to ensure you can get your dream break.
At the Calvert Trust Exmoor centre, we can guarantee every child will be cared for equally, enjoying the same experiences as those around them. Our friendly staff will support parents and carers to look after everyone at all times. During activities, the highly trained instructors tailor the sessions so those with mild to complex disabilities can do the same as each other.
Children can enjoy all the facilities on-site, from watching TV to swimming to enjoying a meal. With everything in one place, children are surrounded by others to ensure they are looked after.
In our experience, when a child with a disability feels looked after, included and equal, they enjoy a sense of freedom and independence and have a wonderful time.
They will do new activities
There are plenty of activities adapted for all, such as abseiling, climbing, horse riding, canoeing, cycling, and much more. Some of these activities are only available for people with disabilities at specialist activity centres like ours.
Many guests visit for the first time questioning if the activities are do-able for a child with a disability. They are then pleasantly surprised when they see children doing tasks they didn’t think possible.
“Beth went abseiling…! I mean it’s a hard thing for Beth to focus walking downstairs but for her to walk down an almost vertical wall was completely emotional to watch her achieve something even I had limited her to not being able to do.”
– from Beth and Grace’s guest story
There are many benefits for a child successfully taking part in an activity they’ve never done before…
They will overcome nerves and fears
It’s only natural that children will feel nervous about doing an activity for the first time, and part of the experience is overcoming their worries and fears.
Their designated instructors will make children feel safe, giving thorough instructions in a way they can understand.
“Our instructor was incredible. He gave Edward the confidence to do every single activity, even the zip wire, which from our arrival, Edward was determined he wouldn’t be confident enough to do.”
There is often a huge sense of accomplishment and excitement when guests do an activity they enjoyed or achieved something they may not have thought possible. Which improves confidence and self-belief.
They will develop and grow
For schools, we have another news piece that discusses why learning outside the classroom is important. Yet the points discussed benefit all children taking part in outdoor and indoor adventure activities.
For many disabled children, being outside doing activities has the following benefits…
- Adaption to new situations and building resilience – Overcoming any difficulties or nerves may be their first taste of resilience, which is considered a crucial part of developing self-confidence
- Gaining a sense of responsibility and independence – Activity breaks give children new responsibilities, like taking care of their belongs, asking for their meals, or putting on a safety helmet. This will build on their sense of independence as they aim to do each thing correctly.
- Developing problem-solving skills, motor skills and co-ordination – The activities on offer encourage physical movements, which help develop both gross and fine motor skills. We understand that not every child can move some or all of their body, but where possible activities are adapted to accommodate their abilities.
- Building trust and communication – At Calvert Trust Exmoor, guests do activities with the same group and instructor throughout their stay. Everyone bonds to ensure that individuals are comfortable and that each person knows what they are doing in activities. So guests will inevitably build up a good rapport with those around them. This leads to building trust and communication.
- Making new friends – By building trust and communication skills, many children learn how to interact with others during their stay and may even make new friends.
They will feel ongoing benefits
It’s well documented that physical exercise and being outdoors has positive and lasting benefits. Studies show physical outdoor activity lowers blood pressure, improves short-term memory, helps fight off illnesses and improves mental wellbeing. Read our news piece How an Adventure Break Can Improve Mental Health for more detail on this.
Residential experiences provide opportunities and benefits that cannot be achieved anywhere else. Advantages include academic success, general happiness and good wellbeing.
They can look forward to visiting the centre
It’s always nice to have something to look forward to, including accessible holidays in Devon, and the build-up to a visit to Calvert Trust Exmoor can also have big benefits.
For example – the anticipation can lead to a more positive outlook. The act of choosing what to take and packing bags can increase focus. Discussing what the stay will involve could help improve communication. We also have tips available for things to pack and how to get your child excited if you need them.
Whether visiting for the first time or coming back for another stay, each child will gain benefits unique to them during their time at the centre. Join us soon to discover the benefits of visiting Calvert Trust Exmoor for a child with a disability.
If you would like to book a break with us or have a question about an upcoming visit, please phone us on 01598 763221 and the team will be willing to help.
Don’t forget that our breaks include activities, accommodation, meals, use of the facilities and more.
It is not unusual to feel anxious when you are in an unfamiliar setting and situation. It is an entirely acceptable feeling, no matter what your age or who you are.
It is important to remember, if you do feel these emotions, they do not have to remain with you throughout your adventure break. There are small but helpful things you can do to improve how you perceive your new situation.
Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, we are dedicated to providing accessible breaks for everyone to enjoy, from school residentials to holidays for people with disabilities. We want to make sure that every one of our guests has the best experience possible, so have created this blog to help you.
Who Can Benefit From This Advice?
We have created these tips for everyone to try if they are ever feeling anxious when they are away from home.
If you are an independent adult on an accessible adventure break, we hope you can refer to this blog to help you if you are feeling unsure.
If you are a carer or a parent with a child of any age, who is about to embark on a residential adventure, we hope we can help you with ideas on how to alleviate their feelings of anxiety.
Accept How You Are Feeling
It is ok to feel a bit on edge when you are away from home, even if you are only down the road! It is a feeling that can primarily occur when your usual daily routines have had to change for the duration of your trip.
Begin by identifying the feelings of unease and accepting them for what they are. It is important to remind yourself that it is completely fine and natural to feel this way when you are away from what you know.
Talk To Someone About How you Feel
Once you have accepted how you currently feel, let someone else know. Whether they are:
• A staff member, such as an instructor
• A family member
• A friend you have gone on the adventure break with
• A teacher
• A carer
You never know, they may feel similar and appreciate that you have confided in them! You can talk about what you love back at home and how they might also like it if they ever come to visit.
It may break the ice for those you do not know so well too.
Remember You Can Call Home
Living in the 21st-century means you are never too far from home! With mobile phones, social media, Skype, FaceTime and WhatsApp, staying in touch couldn’t be easier.
If you would like to ring home and talk about things, go for it! There is no shame in letting your nearest and dearest know about how you are doing. They will be able to see the situation from the outside and remind you of all the amazing reasons you wanted to go in the first place.
Talking to your family members will reassure your anxiety that everything back home is ok and you aren’t missing out on anything. Their jolly voices will let you know they are happy and healthy.
Put Things Into Perspective
Once you have accepted and communicated how you feel, it is time to try and gently shift your perspective on the experience.
You feel anxious, and that is completely acceptable. And it is also ok to feel worried but still want to make the most of your opportunity away from home.
Think about the initial reasons why you wanted to come. What activities did you want to try? Were they as you expected them to be? How did it feel to do them? What highlights will you share when you get back home?
Record Your Feelings
Noting down your feelings can be as effective as talking for some people.
You could think about:
• What were the highlights of the day? You could break down the day into morning, afternoon and evening and reflect what you enjoyed the most at each point.
• What challenges did you face today?
• How could the situation be different next time?
Good or bad, it is all acceptable to note down!
Perhaps you will revisit your thoughts in your journal, or perhaps you won’t, it doesn’t matter! Similar to talking, it is just good to get the feelings out in the open so you can move forward and take each day as it comes.
Try to Be Social, Even If You May Not Feel Like It
When you feel uncomfortable, the idea of talking with new people can feel incredibly daunting.
If you are on a trip without company from home, or with people you do not know so well, it is essential to ensure you do not isolate yourself, especially if you are not in the most positive of mind frames.
By socialising, it will feel like a massive achievement in itself and may instantly lift your mood. Many adventure breaks have social areas for guests to interact with. Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, we have numerous social areas for our guests to relax in including, The Barn bar, the games room and our stunning courtyard for warmer weather.
You never know who you are going to meet, so try your best to keep an open mind even though this is easier said than done. You may make a friend for life, all starting with a simple hello!
Keep Social Goals Attainable
If you are a shy person, keep your social goals small and achievable, so you don’t feel too overwhelmed. Try meeting one person, to begin with. Listening is an admirable trait in people, so try this at first and see where you go!
Get Out Your Comfort Zone
When you feel like you miss home, try and reflect back to why you wanted to go on your adventure break and the activities you envisioned yourself trying. Speak to your instructor about your feelings, so they can encourage and reassure you to try all the experiences you thought you would try before you felt anxious on the trip.
Bring Familiar Things With You
Bringing something special to you from home is a popular thing to do.
It could be a much-loved photo, a cuddly toy, some sweet treats or a cushion. Anything that brings you comfort, don’t be afraid to take it with you.
For parent or carers whose children are going on a residential trip away, why not ask your child what they would like to take with them? Take a look at our blog on how to get your child excited for a residential trip for some other handy hints and tips!
Have you ever felt homesick when you were on an adventure break? What helped you? We would love to know! Why not let us know on our social media channels?
Being active is an essential part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Not only are there distinct physical advantages, but the NHS website expresses how exercising consistently is proven to improve feelings of self-esteem.
Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, we promote a can-do attitude and aim to encourage all our visitors to achieve their heart’s desires. As a result, we have selected some of the top sites online where users can search for local activity and sports clubs across the UK.
Whether you would like to try swimming, bowling, football, tennis, surfing or any sport, these sites can share with you the accessible activities available in your area. Take a look at our blog on the Five Benefits of Surfing for People With a Disability for more information on this unique activity and discover the fantastic work led by the Wave Project!
ParalympicsGB has created the Parasport website alongside Toyota. Their goal is in ‘making movement better for everyone.’
The site has been produced in the hope of becoming the largest inclusive, online community which shares valuable information about sporting opportunities across the country. It shares not only information about offered sports, but also a place to read up on the stories and accomplishments of people who have joined exercise groups and clubs.
With an emphasis that everyone should have equal opportunities in trying the sports they want to, they promote that everyone can find an activity that they can enjoy!
What the Site Offers:
Parasport can be used as a search engine to discover available sports across the UK. They also share information about upcoming events regarding accessible activities and provide an online community for those involved, or would like to be involved, in sporting events and clubs.
The Parasport website also has a section of suggestions for sports you can try for inspiration. Each sport featured has a general summary of what to expect, as well as some handy tips on things to take along to a session.
They offer information on the amenities of local leisure centres too.
The NHS provides users with a trove of information for health issues, including both mental health and physical health matters. It offers advice on symptoms and how to get help where necessary.
The Live Well section of the site can provide you with tips for eating better, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising tips, how to improve sleep patterns as well as support for issues with substances such as alcohol.
What the Site Offers:
The NHS provides an online guide for improving your levels of exercise. The advice includes tips on:
• How to build exercise into your day
• A search for events and activities
• A list of disability sports and associations
• A list of national bodies
Here you can search for clubs and forums nationwide and see what there is on offer, while learning about little changes you can make to improve your lifestyle.
Para Dance UK
‘Everyone can dance!’ is the motto of Para Dance UK! The charity is the national governing body for the sport for Para Dancing throughout the country.
UK wheelchair dancing is believed to have been developed in Scotland in the late 1960s. While people were learning how to move their wheelchairs, it was here that it was realised it could be done to music.
In the 70s, the Wheelchair Association began, and in 2006 the co-founders of the charity started the Wheelchair Dance Sport Association (UK), also known as the WDSA (UK). Under the influence of the International Paralympic Committee who rebranded the sport internationally to Para Dance, the WDSA (UK) also adjusted their name in 2017, creating Para Dance UK.
Their goal is to ensure that the sport is promoted in the UK and encouraged as an accessible activity for all to enjoy, especially for those who feel like dancing is something they might not be able to participate in.
What the Site Offers:
The site supplies an in-depth look into the history of the sport, which makes for a fascinating read. They are a source of information for budding dancers by offering information on how they can get involved. The site provides a directory which can ‘Find A Group’ in your local area through merely entering your postcode.
You can also discover a course that Para Dance UK provide and read up on dance competitions.
Activity Alliance is focussed on making sure we all live the most active we possibly can, no matter our abilities. They provide help to other organisations across a range of sectors so they can support the needs of disabled individuals and create inclusive environments.
It is their mission to change their perceptions of what disabled people can achieve and want to make the UK a more comprehensive country.
They work with places such as leisure centres and local and national groups by offering additional support such as:
• Inclusion programmes
What the Site Offers:
The site offers information on inclusive gyms in your area which have been made possible through the Inclusive Fitness Initiative, IFI. This scheme has run for a number of years and has created inclusive gyms and leisure centres by ensuring they are accessible.
You can also search for information on current events and happenings in your local area.
The help doesn’t stop there, as they also provide a ‘Beginners Guide’, with handy hints and tips for those just starting out.
Council for Disabled Children – Transition Information Network
The Transition Information Network (TIN) is an organisation set up by the Council for Disabled Children.
The inspiration behind TIN is to ensure that disabled children have access to activities and sports, which could positively influence their lives.
The site offers a range of activities including:
• Social places
• Weekend clubs
• After school clubs
TIN believes that by encouraging children to join these local communities, they will make more friends and live a happier life.
What the Site Offers:
The site offers a list of activities to charities and groups in the following sectors:
• Clubs and Forums
• Short Breaks
Each area provides a link to the charities and groups within these sectors for individuals to try.
Hopefully, we have provided you with some helpful websites so you can choose a sport to begin! If you have any information on accessible groups and clubs in your local area, we would love to hear from you on our social media channels!
Calvert Trust Exmoor is an accessible site where we want everyone to enjoy themselves! If you require more information about the adventure breaks we offer and are interested in our programmes for Devon adventure activities, please feel free to contact us on 01598 763221 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.