Play in the Community
Short breaks and play for disabled children
Torfaen Play and Short Break Services provide short breaks (respite) to complex families across the borough through community play clubs, projects linked to schools, therapeutic play sessions and half term and summer playschemes.
A multi agency partnership approach enables Torfaen Play and Short Break Services to support over 200 children and young people with requirements ranging from mild additional needs to complex medical needs and profound disabilities to attend community play provision. By working in partnership with health professionals they are able to offer regular play provision to children and young people who require nurses for feeding and medication. Additionally, by working with physiotherapists daily routines are maintained through holiday periods.
A robust referral process ensures that the specific individual needs of children and young people are identified. Subsequent training is put in place to ensure that the worker has the correct skills and knowledge to provide the level of support needed, which includes training in personal care and feeding as well as training linked to medication for conditions such as epilepsy and diabetes. Communication passports and specialist equipment is also available as well as pre playscheme packs for the children and young people which include details and photos of the venue, support worker and a timetable of activities. Children and young people on the Autistic spectrum in particular have utilised this resource to allow them to prepare themselves for their playscheme experience.
By supporting children and young people with disabilities to attend community play provision it benefits the child and the family as a whole. Children and young people benefit from beingprovided with a rich and varied inclusive play environment which allows for opportunities which promote health and positive wellbeing as well as opportunities for testing boundaries and exploring risk which encourage social development and learning. Many of the opportunities also foster children's independence and self-esteem and encourage them to develop basic independent living skills.
Increased integration levels within community play provision have also helped to challenge and breakdown stigma associated with disabilities. Integrated play provision allows disabled children and young people to play and socialise with their non-disabled peers.
Gaining the confidence and support of parents and carers has been integral to the integration process. Parents and carers stress how vital the play provision is to allow them to receive respite and to enable them to spend quality time with their other children. A parent/carer forum was created in 2011 to enable parents and carers to share their views and support the sustainability of inclusive play provision in Torfaen. The group meets on a quarterly basis and a ‘stay and play’session take place at the same time for the children.
‘I am the mum of Benjamin Stevenson who has Down's syndrome and Autism. Benjamin is 11 years old and has been reaping the rewards of inclusive play provision for some time now … I value the service provided thus providing opportunities for Ben that he enjoys in a safe environment and supported by staff that care and are enthusiastic about what they do. Benjamin has complex needs yet can enjoy what other children of his age enjoy at "After Dark" and "Play scheme" mixing with typically developmentally children and being brought on by doing so, watching and copying their movements. Not only is the service fabulous for Benjamin it provides me with respite which is also valuable time’.
- Alexandra Hills