Families with children who have disabilities or mental health issues, very rarely get to take time out together and spend quality time as a family unit. When do they get to spend time with similar families or have a well-earned break and a bit of fun?
Parents often feel anxious about trying to do things together as a family and so give up – worrying about how their child will react or fear of being judged by the public eye.
At Circle of Life Rediscovery, we have been working in partnership with CAMHS (Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service) and FISS/LD (Family Intensive Support Service/Learning Disabilities) to offer bespoke family woodland days in a safe and natural environment – a valuable therapeutic tool for families with children who have complex needs such as learning difficulties, emotional and behavioural problems.
Our work has allowed families and especially siblings of these children, to experience normal life and have an everyday children’s experience in a relaxing, fun and life-affirming day together. Also a chance for parents to meet other parents of children with disabilities.
Through the activities offered enable these young people to experience something new and discover skills they didn’t realise they had, such as how to light a fire and cook on it, engage in woodland crafts – making animals out of woodland materials, building shelters or weaving dream catchers to take home.
We sing together, make music and play games that focus on sensory needs including feeling the plants and leaves, touching and moulding clay. Following the seasons, we create crafts and share food together.
We explore social connections and relationships during our circle time and games – this allows the children to move away from their families at their own pace and engage with others, perhaps something they have never done before. A highlight is providing head and shoulder massage too!
To see a child enter and experience the woods, especially a child with special needs is an amazing experience. But, to see how that child flourishes is magical and inspirational. They have no boundaries, no expectations – instead, we focus on what they CAN achieve.
Meet Fran Warry – in this inspirational and emotional speech, we meet a mother of a disabled daughter who attended one of our family funded days through FISS.
A Beautiful Day – a video about a Family’s day out in the woods with Circle of Life Rediscovery team and the FISS team.
Reaching to the Outdoors – a special day with CAMHS LD/FISS in the woods.
Feedback from a CAMHS LD/FISS staff member:
“I am a clinical psychologist working within the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service-Learning Disabilities / Family Intensive Support Service. I recently accompanied one of the families I work with on a woodlands project ‘Reaching to the outdoors’ family day. Due to challenging behaviours the young person can engage in when out in the community the family have become very restricted in where they are able to go and activities they can do together. The woodlands provided a safe environment to learn, play, create, explore and have a positive time together as a family. The enjoyment the family got from attending the day was evident.”
Feedback from a parent:
‘I felt relaxed, everyone has been friendly, open and made us feel welcome. It’s a very different experience. We have never had the chance to mingle with other autistic families. People here look after EVERYONE’s needs. It is real learning about how to spend time with your child and make it enjoyable for the whole family. Now I don’t feel as petrified about spending time with them running around. The massage was amazing. It’s the first time ever that I didn’t know where my children were but I was calm and knew they were safe. I don’t remember any other time when I felt so relaxed. I have just had a long and frank conversation with another parent. We have swapped numbers and will try and see each other as often as possible.
I now have positive energy, I feel stronger and confident. I know now that it can be good to be around other people. I don’t have fear anymore. I don’t have to worry about how other people feel about my child being different. If I could do this more I would come every week. From the other parents I have gained knowledge of where to go for help and support.
It would be good to meet parents in similar situations now I know I can ask for help, I don’t have to keep it just in the family. I was so isolated. If I had known earlier about this….now I feel I can talk about my problems and be understood, I have never experience this before. Thank you. You are all amazing people. These few hours will give me enough energy for the next few months.’
We are delighted that our Woodland Family Project has been shortlisted for the Innovation in Child, Adolescent and Young People’s Mental Health Award. Nominate now.
Earlier this year together with our Partners, we won the Silver Quality & Innovation Award for Positive Practice in Mental Health 2015.
If you would like to learn more about our Funded Projects, please visit our website.