Two island charities partnered to deliver a Summer Activity Scheme for children with learning disabilities and/or autism.
Manx Mencap and Autism in Mann worked together for the first time to provide more than 100 hours of activities with 55 events to almost 90 children.
Asked how the scheme came about, Kelly Quaye one of the directors of Manx Mencap said: ‘Manx Mencap and Autism in Mann offered families the opportunity to participate in a workshop (‘Planning for the School Holidays’) in May, the goal was to partner with families and ask what they wanted to see this summer.
‘We formed a working party with the cohort of parents who attended, from which the Summer Activity Scheme was born in direct response to their suggestions.
‘Our members typically benefit from accessing activities that are tailored to their needs, this often means smaller group sessions, higher adult:child ratios, trained staff, more therapeutic interventions, and a steadier session pace with more predictable outcomes.
‘These approaches ensured our activities offered flexibility in a way that mainstream sessions are typically unable to accommodate.’
Some of the activities on offer included small group swim sessions, animal therapy, carriage driving, sailing, Lego club, dance, arts and craft sessions, and regional playground meet-ups.
Kelly added: ‘We understand the needs of our users, and liaised between families and partner organisations offering events in the community to ensure we accommodated their needs.
‘Raising a child with a learning disability and/or autism is challenging for many reasons, but parents often feel isolated, lonely and exhausted.
‘Not only did this activity scheme offer children the opportunity to get out and have fun this summer, but it provided families with a safe space to be themselves, to go unjudged, and to be part of a community.
‘It provided families the opportunity to occupy community spaces where they don’t always feel safe or welcome.
‘The scheme offered predictability for children who rely on routine and structure, it offered choice, and it offered reassurance that other families who ‘get it’ would be in attendance. It removed the isolation so many families experience during long school breaks.’
A Manx Mencap spokesperson said: ‘The success of the scheme relied heavily on community partnerships established with other charities and organisations and we extend our sincere gratitude to each of them.’ The partnerships were with Isle of Play, TINY Hooves Therapy, Singing Jo & Co., Skianagh Inclusive Dance School, the Family Library, Manx Carriage Driving for the Disabled, Isle of Man Sailing for the Disabled, and the Northern Swimming Pool.
Events were supported by staff and volunteers from Manx Mencap, alongside Jenny Cawte, autism and social communication liaison officer for DESC’s education advice and support. The charities hope to provide a further offering of activities.
Faye Guildea, mum to six-year-old Odin, said: ‘the scheme has helped so many families in desperate need for a safe space for their children and is a vital resource that has been desperately needed. Our family has had the most rewarding summer due to these amazing inclusive activities.’