What does the club offer?
We strive to provide a friendly environment for the young people to feel safe and free to be themselves. We have a team of staff and volunteers who understand autism and the difficulties this can present within not only the young person’s life but also the family. We run the sessions so that the young people have something to feel part of, they can start to build up skills in making friends and by attending the sessions we see an improvement in social skills and personal development.
The club is aimed at children from 5 years to about 11 years, or later depending on their level of need. We work closely with parents to provide a individual plan for each child to ensure both the child and parents feel comfortable within the club and therefore feel able to participate in group activities. With the help of the staff, and the fact they are amongst other children with ASD, they then go onto develop social skills and build friendships.
We currently have 4 members of staff, all of which are specially training in ASD and other helpful techniques. All have a current DBS (CRB), First Aid and Safeguarding training. All have years of experience with children with ASD. We also have small dedicated team of young volunteers, typically consisting of young adults currently studying for A levels looking for work and life experience or as part of the Duke of Edinburgh scheme, or looking for a meaningful entry on a UCAS form. Working alongside them are some of our older children with ASD who return to the club as trainee volunteers, not only to help them transition into mainstream work, but also to act as mentors to our younger children. They are also a great resource for ideas to make sure those running the club understand the views of those with ASD.
During the club, the children have access to crafts, sports, games, games consoles, computers and other hands-on activities all designed to provide the stage for them to interact and learn. As well as these activities, we also arrange for outside resources to visit the club such as a traveling animal ‘ark’, musicians, drama workshops and sports coaches. They all provide the chance for the children to participate in different activities from which they gain experience and confidence.
At the end of each session, the staff participate in a reflective team meeting to discuss what strategies worked and what need improvement.
We enjoy speaking to parents and receiving feedback, but encourage parents to leave the club while their children are with us. We’ve found this not only helps the children access activities which they wouldn’t normally as they have the support of their peer group but also offers another aspect of our service, that of supporting the parents and siblings of our children. During the club, this is a time for parents to spend time away from ASD and to do things that are sometimes difficult to do with an Autistic child. It is also a time for the parents to devote some time to the siblings of the child with ASD who often feel marginalised.
Most of all, our children enjoy the club because it’s a space in which they are allowed to be Autistic and which embraces their positive qualities.