Ever since visiting friends in Norway many years ago, I was fascinated with the idea of the Forest School principle and developing this further including mountain and water-based adventure activities. Back then, I was working in large centre-based Day Service for adults with learning disabilities and additional support needs.
I was convinced that there was a better way of supporting people to develop both interpersonal skills and practical life skills.
Too often, people with disabilities are wrapped in cotton wool. They are not given challenging (and potentially scary!) opportunities or encouraged to push themselves to try new activities. Within The Adventure Service Ltd we can work with individuals over extended periods of time to develop the skills to participate in mainstream outdoor activities. One example of this is a young man who has been attending our provision for several years and has been given the opportunity to ride tricycles. He recently progressed to riding a regular mountain bike. This may have taken five years to achieve but the delight and excitement was fantastic to see!
To enable development in life skills it is advantageous that participants can undertake long term programmes, if they wish to.
The Personal Development Cycle
On the first visit of any potential Adventurer it is good practice to start to build an in-depth support plan to enable the individual to develop skills that will be transferable to other aspects of their lives.
This can include shopping for ingredients and cooking simple, one pot meals and “survival” meals in a Dutch oven over a fire. When cooking over the fire you use the same skills as you would in the kitchen at home, such as importance of personal hygiene, using sharps to prepare the ingredients and the awareness of heat and the risk of burns.
This support plan should be a working document that is reviewed formally to create a Personal Development Cycle, this involves…
Stage One – Each Adventurer should be allocated a key worker from the Instructor Team to support their development. This instructor would then be responsible for the continued development of the individual’s support plan.
Stage Two – On any given day, each Instructor should be given (by one of the Day Service managers, Mala or Sarah.) a group of Adventurers and an activity for that day. The Instructor will then use each Adventurer’s support plan to outline that day’s activities. This should be recorded on a session planning document that includes - the session activity for that day, risk benefit assessment and any specific risks for that activity, previous session review notes, each Adventurer’s name, their individual targets and any specific support needs.
Stage Three – Delivery of session activity. Examples of activities we offer include canoeing, bushcraft, weaselling, archery, hill walking and abseiling.
Stage Four – At the end of the activity, each Adventurer should be given the opportunity and support to complete a review of the activity. This should include a photograph and the Adventurers views of the day.
Stage Five –The Adventurers and the instructional staff should then complete a target review sheet. This should include the main skills area that has been identified that the specific person wants to work towards, the date, the activity, the individual target for that day, how these targets where met, a general overview of the day, what worked, what support was needed, and how this activity could be developed further the Adventurer.
Stage Six - These target review sheets should be reviewed regularly (8 weeks is recommended) and feed back into the Adventurers individual support plan, thus providing a continuing learning and development cycle.
We believe everybody should have opportunities for adventurous activities regardless of ability and that having these opportunities and challenges can help individuals develop the skills and confidence to meet their potential and lead healthy and fulfilling lives.