What difference the project has made to children?
We observe at every programme children arriving reluctantly, most of whom sitting down motionless with eyes focused on the floor over several weeks blossoming into a group of confident youngsters who at the breaks and before and after each session enjoy each others’ company and are indistinguishable from any other group of neuro-typical youngsters.
Confederation of schools in 2 of the areas in which we have worked are running projects to integrate this work into the school curriculum through training SENCOs to undertake this work. Advantage Unlimited is supporting these projects.
Parents in most of the projects in Surrey have continued to meet informally to provide mutual support. In one federation this is being supported by a paid outreach worker from Surrey County Council.
In almost all cases parents said that they were able to communicate more effectively with their children, and that they had a greater understanding of their difficulties and were better able to support them with difficult situation
The children made friends with each other within the groups and then able to develop friendships in other situations.
At the last session the children spoke enthusiastically about themselves and their hobbies and when asked how they had found the programme, the children responded very positively,
- “It’s been fun”
- “I like the activities because you could work with people”
- “I’m glad I’ve had this experience of meeting everyone”
- “I’ve learnt communication, how to start conversations, how to make friends…its been a fantastic experience”
- “This course has taught me that I can make friends”
- “Thank you Val and Gill for everything you have done for us”
- “I’ve made friends”
- “I’ve really enjoyed it”
- “It’s helped us to communicate with our school friends
Many of the children were sad that the programme was coming to an end:
- “I’m upset that all the sessions have ended now”
- “I’m sad that it’s all ending”
- “It’s a bit emotional… but nothing can last forever”
- ‘I’m really going to miss this fun course and I would like to thank Val and Di for all their hard work’
The children explained how they had enjoyed the activities and had made new friends.
- “I made new friends and I have built up confidence”
When asked what they had learnt, the children responded with the following comments:
- ‘How important it is to communicate by using non-verbal and verbal communication, e.g. nodding, smiling, making eye-contact’
- ‘To never give up immediately, to try your best and to not mumble’
- ‘I learnt how to start or end conversations and how to keep them going’
- ‘I learnt you have to give friends space’
Since starting the programme the pupils commented how they had used their skills at school:
- ’ Find solutions for my anxiety, especially at the award ceremony at school
- ‘Talk at school to my friends and to people who came to visit’
We have received feedback from SENCOs:
One young boy joined his school drama group as a result of our role-play, formed a pop group, which played at his school prom and then performed at Guilfest. He stood for only just missed being elected as head boy!
Other comments included
- “More mature”
- “Less inappropriate behaviour”
- “More positive entry into lessons”
Parents Evaluation of Project
Many of the parents explained their child’s difficulties making friends at school. They were really pleased that the group had helped them to meet similar children and families, who understood them and their difficulties,
- ‘I enjoyed meeting others in the same position as myself”
- ‘I enjoyed getting to know the others’
- ‘I enjoyed the communication and interaction with others and seeing the children making friends’,
- “We’ve thoroughly enjoyed the course and have met some great new people”
- “They’ve (the children) made friends through this”
- “We learnt we are not on our own. We have met other families in similar situations and can know see things from a different view-point”
- “I enjoyed seeing the teenagers opening up and engaging in conversation”
- “I enjoyed learning about myself and my family”
By the final session of the programme, all the parents, even those who were initially sceptical, were full of praise for the leaders and fully supportive of the programme,
- “I was a bit cynical at first when I got the letter. I didn’t think he needed it. But now I can see how much he’s enjoyed it. He’s come on leaps and bounds. I’m proud that he’s volunteered to do this and of everything he’s achieved”
- “At first he didn’t want to come, but now he loves coming and we have found the whole project very interesting and enjoyable”
- “It’s been a pleasure and really fun”
- “I wish it could continue and that there could be a follow on programme”
The parents were all very supportive of their children and each another. They all felt that the group approach, involving them, their children and the autism specialists, worked particularly well.
- “The group work with adults and children has been very successful”
- “School’s can’t give them the 1:1 that they need as they just don’t have the time or the knowledge to know what to do”
- “It has built up his confidence, he used to hate being in groups, but he feels very comfortable here”
Many of the parents felt that their relationships with their children had improved as a consequence of taking part in the programme and liked the fact that they were set ‘homework’ tasks, as it gave them something to focus and work on through the week.
- “The huge benefit our family has received is knowing and understanding each other better. Communication is important in part of our lives and often underestimated”
- “I’ve been encouraging Robert to have conversations with family friends and people outside, such as shop keepers, etc”
- “Before we all coped independently with his problems. Now we all work together as a family to deal with issues as they arise”
One parent, whose child was initially reluctant to take part in the presentations, explained how she had seen a noticeable improvement in her son’s communication and ability to cope in social situations,
- “He never wants to come, but by the time we get home I can see it’s made a difference. He’s a completely different boy to what you see here. He doesn’t like people…I mean he doesn’t like talking to people. I think he does like having people being around, he just doesn’t like talking to them…. I think he is listening, even though he doesn’t always participate, I can see that he is trying and taking it in. When we get home he will often be frustrated that he didn’t take part more”
Parents in one of our groups have set up a self-help group.