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We're all about changing society for the better, so that disabled people and their families can have the same opportunities as everyone else.

Kilimanjaro: I wanna stand with you on a mountain…

Guest post from Alan Gosschalk, Director of Fundraising

Last autumn while planning Scope’s challenge events, we realised that two departed on the same day – one up Kilimanjaro, the other to Everest Base Camp. We needed a Scope rep on each… step forward the fearless Fundraising Director, aka yours truly, for the former. To be honest, I didn’t really know what I was letting myself in for but others had enjoyed it and many had conquered it, so why not?

It started with a briefing session in October and a trip to the pub in December. Between them, I met half of the group of 20 going on the trip. People seemed nice enough. They were already doing well with the fundraising, arguably as big a challenge as climbing Kili itself, but people are resilient and determined. Toby and Anna raised £1,500 at a band night, Marz £630 by collecting at her town’s train station, Nat raised £46 packing bags at a well-known supermarket in Hendon and Ali did a sponsored run of 250km, the distance from Nairobi to Arusha, and raised £600. I went the easy route, generating £3,000 from eight very generous suppliers and a few friends.

Training was a washout. I did manage a few walks but was ill for three weeks from Christmas day on. I decided to rely on the residual fitness developed from a long distance walk last June! Our leader, Simon, pointed out that only extensive trekking at altitude can prepare you properly for Kili – result! I was no worse off than anyone else.

And so D Day crept up on us until we met nervously at the airport, all polite, maybe a little daunted. The next day, after the first sleepless night of many, we were in another world – hot, excited, eager to get going. And so began the daily ritual of packing and unpacking a variety of bags and rucksacks. Si (not the leader) broke the world record for the number of times a bag can be repacked in a one-hour period.

And then we set off, through lush vegetation, climbing 1,300 metres on day one. Within no time, we were singing, sipping water (vital) and telling jokes (poor). In no time, we became a team – the camaraderie was palpable. We were supported by the most amazing crew who sped by us daily to set up camp, cook our food, provide us with clean water, and even sort our toilets. We were in constant awe at their strength and stamina. Camping was a challenge for most – it was cold and uncomfortable. Food became fuel – though we didn’t want to, we had to eat… porridge, soups, stews – amazing food in the circumstances.

AMS (altitude sickness) affected many of us on day two as we plodded up to 3,900 metres. Diamox, the drug that counters its effects, worked pretty quickly. And so began the daily routine. Shiver through the night, ‘wake’, force down porridge and eggs, up and out in 45 minutes. We walked through amazing landscapes – past lava towers, moonscapes, past huge pineapple-like plants, scrambling up the Barranco wall – the variety was astounding. The one constant was the support that we gave each other. Inevitably people had low moments but they never lasted for long as others noticed and joked, sang, played 20 questions and asked inane questions. Well, do YOU know how long eggshell takes to biodegrade?

But we all noticed that it was getting colder, we were having to walk further and get up earlier each day and the mood became altogether more sombre as we were briefed twice about ‘summit night’. Simon’s view was that there was no point in sugar coating the truth – no one could possibly accuse him of that! We went to bed at 7pm (!) terrified, quaking in our sleeping bags. We were up at 11, cold and nervous. By midnight we were moving, slower than a snail due to the steepness and altitude. We trudged upwards, following a line of lights ahead. I counted every 100 steps, then started again. Trevor started singing along to his iPod – it was Coldplay, “nobody said it was easy, nobody said it would be this hard”. We’d put up with thousands of his jokes, mostly bad ones, but this was nearly the final straw.

There was no respite – when we did stop we always seemed to be in a wind tunnel. It was tough, the toughest thing any of us had ever done in our lives. Yet we persisted, on and on through the dark, until after six hours the sky started to lighten and we knew we weren’t far away. Gradually the sun came up. We got closer and closer to Stella Point until finally, we were there – hugs and tears, Jo cried for England. Then another 45 minutes before we got to Uhuru, the top of the highest free-standing mountain in the world and of Africa at 5,895m, almost 20,000 feet. Inevitably we’d plodded at different speeds and just behind us came Amrit, so determined having had to turn back last year. She had returned to complete the journey and she made it – mind over matter. We were all so very proud of her, the heroine of our trip.

We still had a long way down, three hours of scree then another two hours before a descent of 2,300 metres the next day – equivalent to more than twice the height of Snowdon. Then a celebration dinner, fun awards, too much Kilimanjaro beer and dancing to The Cult with Rik! Amazing.

Then finally back to reality in the UK but we’d all changed and learnt so much. We had made friendships that will last forever and share a unique bond. And we now know that we can achieve (almost) anything we set out to, if we’re determined enough. A life-changing trip in just six days – you can’t ask for much more than that. It’s a journey I implore you to go on.

Ain’t no mountain high enough… 

Alan Gosschalk, Director of Fundraising

Inspired by Alan’s experience? Sign up for one of our Kilimanjaro treks now!

Kilimanjaro trekkers

Cambridgeshire consultation with young people

Young disabled=

Liam is an Orchard Manor representative on the newly founded Cambridgeshire County Council’s (CCC) Transitions Partnership Board. The Board is a group of representatives from health, social care, young people’s services and the voluntary sector whose focus is to enable young people from the age of 14 – 25 to move successfully into the adult world by listening to their opinions and wishes for the future.

A consultation event (YIPPEE) hosted at Papworth Trust recently, was an opportunity for three of the new Orchard Manor representatives to meet up with representatives from different organisations. The day included consultation on the Cambridgeshire County Council’s draft SEN (special educational needs) paper, around the single assessment. The young people also discussed how they would prefer to make choices.

The YIPPEE event enabled the young people to vote on three topics they would like the Transition Board to consider during the upcoming year. These were communication and equipment, better work experience and leisure and transport. These topics greatly affect the lives of the young people at Orchard Manor and their input into these discussions will be invaluable so this is a great opportunity for them.

We look forward to hearing more about the work of the Board in upcoming months and will keep you informed on how the young people at Orchard Manor are influencing these decision makers.

Work experience a booming success in Meldreth

Meldreth work experience

Residents at Orchard Manor are part of a work experience programme set up last year to support the Meldreth Manor School reception. Students from the school are also part of the successful programme.

This experience has proved immensely popular with some young people whilst others have discovered it is not their calling.

Care staff support young people who enjoy the interaction with staff and visitors and have expressed a desire to work at the busy reception. Beth is one of the new receptionists. Besides welcoming visitors in a polite and professional manner and making sure everyone is signed in, Beth ensures the barrier is opened to let visitors onto the site and also promotes the sales of our apple juice (an annual fundraising endeavour). A task list with Makaton signs supports her to perform other administrative tasks, such as filling the photocopier with paper, doing some shredding, sorting out post and giving out messages.

Two young people who moved on from Orchard Manor to our first move on residence in Histon, Cambridge, also work as part of the work experience team and return to do their weekly shifts. This also gives them the opportunity to catch up with old friends.

Ensuring support for disabled people and their families

Government plans to radically overhaul Disability Living Allowance and replace it with a new payment, Personal Independence Payment, got the go-ahead last week. The changes will see people who were previously entitled to Disability Living Allowance having support withdrawn as new assessment criteria is start to bite.

Both DLA and PIP are designed to help disabled people pay for the extra costs their impairment incur, but I struggle to see how this can be the reality when an estimated half a million disabled people stand to lose support when new eligibility criteria come in to force in 2013.

Over recent weeks the papers have been full of disabled people’s stories and their concerns for the future, but we must not forget that many of these people have children (young and old). What will the impact be on their lives if their parents lose the support that gets them up in the morning?

The stakes have never been higher for disabled people and their children. Both my parents are disabled and I am desperately worried about what the future holds for us all if the new PIP assessment sees their support cut.

As DLA is my parents’ only source of income, the impact of any change to the amount they receive could have a devastating impact on the whole family. We only just manage to pay for the basics as it is, to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. I’m really worried about what the future may bring…

I’m determined to ensure the Government understands the impact of these reforms on families across the country. Time is running out to influence their plans.

The Government’s new PIP consultation is likely to be our last chance to have our say before the changes become law and I need your help.

I’m looking for other children (young and old) of disabled people to help me put together a joint response to these proposals that leave them in no doubt of the impact the changes will have. If you share my concerns please get in touch with any comments, stories or concerns you have that you think might persuade the Government to think again.

The issue of who gets what support and how this is decided has long since moved on from being a debate about public finances. It is now, in my opinion, a struggle to defend the human rights and the dignity of people most in need of our support and a debate in which we should all engage.

If you would like to get involved, please get in touch via the campaigns network. Email campaigns@scope.org.uk

Visit to Russell’s Farm in Duxford

Orchard Manor farm visit

Orchard Manor‘s skills tutor Tracey Demartino accompanied two groups of young disabled people to Russell’s Farm in Duxford.

The young people who attended the ‘Let Nature Feed Your Senses’ farm visits have learning difficulties (including autism) and are all wheelchair users. Many of the young people also have sensory impairments.

Two groups attended Russell’s Farm on two separate visits. The young people have complex and diverse needs and it was vital to stimulate all of their senses through sight, touch, smell and sound.

Russell’s Farm is an arable farm, and has an area that has been sectioned off specifically to allow for wheelchair users to access the crops – tall crops at wheelchair height such as barley, wheat and sugar beet allowed the groups to touch, feel and smell the crops.

Tracey explained: “The farmers were so thoughtful. Wheelchair access can be a challenge on a farm, but they had thought of everything – even putting down cardboard in areas where the ground was particularly uneven. They were also brilliant at presenting information in a way that made it accessible to each person. I was thrilled the young people were so engaged. They responded really positively to the environment. The farm visits were something that many of the young people had never experienced before and to see them engaged in something so different was great.”

For the young people, and particularly those with a range of impairments, the sensory nature of the visit was essential. As well as touching the barley and wheat straight out of the ground, they felt the grains crushed up, releasing a more concentrated smell. This gave them a multi-sensory experience of the various crops. They also had the opportunity to listen to the sounds of nature, to feel the wind and to benefit from the fresh air. Towards the end of the visit, it began to rain and the group absolutely loved it. Tracey said: “We all found being outside in the rain so funny, we hurried off to a big hangar to take shelter and so we could listen to the sound of the rain hitting the tin roof. A tractor was waiting and we finished our visit listening to the sound of the tractor’s engine, something the group had never heard before.”

The second group had a three-stage visit. As Russell’s Farm is local to Orchard Manor, the host farmer came to visit the young people eight weeks before the farm visit. She brought with her seed potatoes and all the necessary equipment for the group to grow their own potatoes. She talked to the group about how to grow them, what the plants needed to grow and why we might want to grow potatoes. Tracey said: “Everyone was really engaged at that point. Realising that crisps and chips are made from potatoes was very exciting.”

When the group then visited the farm two months later, they took their potato plants with them, and actually harvested them on the farm. They then took them back to Orchard Manor and used them in a cookery session with Tracey, to make potato wedges and potato salad.

Tracey explained: “This three-part visit really supported the group to consider and appreciate the story of food. Having the opportunity to be hands on by growing and harvesting their own potatoes was a really rewarding experience and really helped engage the group.”

Access to places of worship

Guest post from Angela Dobson

Imagine not being able to visit the places that are important to you. Imagine the frustration of trying to go somewhere and finding that you can’t get in while other people can, where the people who work there have no interest in helping you and end up leaving you out in the cold.

That’s what happened to me when I went to visit St Paul’s Cathedral in December.

The wheelchair-accessible side entrance to St Paul’s is usually locked, which is frustrating for anyone wanting to come in that way. As I planned to visit, I called up and told the cathedral I was coming, once several days before and again when I was on my way so that they could make the entrance available. However, when I got there, it was locked. The pavement by the front entrance was blocked off and I had to go into the road to reach the dropped curve at the front of the cathedral. My support worker went up to speak to a member of staff and was informed that there was no room in the cathedral. She was then ignored when she asked why the accessible entrance is always locked.

This is not the first time I’ve been unable to go into St Paul’s, where some of the people who work there have been very unhelpful. It is frustrating and dispiriting not being able to access such an important building that ought to be open to everyone. I think it’s vital that places of worship are made to be accessible to everyone who wishes to visit them, and many places could do more to make their spaces accessible to disabled people.

I’d like to hear other people’s stories about access to places of worship. To support my campaign, email campaigns@scope.org.uk with your experiences.

Employment Support Allowance appeal

Guest post from Panther

After having sent all the paperwork and extra medical evidence in for an appeal in November I still hadn’t heard anything so I spoke to the appeals person from my welfare rights team who had helped me fill the forms in yesterday and they advised me to ring the benefits people. Although the welfare rights person is acting on my behalf he said he wouldn’t be able to phone as I wasn’t with him to answer the security questions and give my permission for him to talk to them for me.

For 10 minutes yesterday I was left hanging on the phone while I waited to speak to an advisor, when I eventually got to speak to someone I was told that yes there was a note on my file that said I had requested an appeal and she could see the letter on the system that had been sent in dated 21st November 2011. The advisor told me it can take months for them to reach a decision when they look at your ESA claim again but she would put a link through to the department dealing with it and ask them to contact me to give me an update.

So this morning I got a phonecall from a DWP office in Hyde why I was getting a phonecall from an office in Hyde when I’d been told to send all the paperwork to Cosham I don’t know. The person at the Hyde office told me there was no note on the system saying that I had requested an appeal and that they hadn’t received any paperwork relating to it. They were going to put another link through to Cosham to see if they had the paperwork somewhere.

I then made another phonecall to the DWP on the number I’d rung yesterday and after another wait of over 10 minutes I was told by another advisor who I discovered aren’t advisors at all just call centre workers that the Hyde office are right there is no record of me asking for an appeal or any of the paperwork that I’d sent in to support my appeal. After a very stressful phonecall where I got very upset arguing how could one person tell me there were notes of an appeal being requested plus when I said a letter was sent requesting for an appeal and that letter was dated 21st November I was told yes I can see that, in less than 24 hours all these things have disappeared!!

I’ve now got an appeal form being sent out to me so have to arrange another visit from the welfare rights appeal person again and have been advised by the call centre that I can either send it back in the envelope provided or I can go to my local job centre. But even going to my local jobcentre isn’t straight forward I can’t just pop in there when it is done I have to phone the call centre back and make an appointment to go into the jobcentre because that is the only way I will be given a receipt for the paperwork I take in. How hard can it be for someone to write a receipt?

Apparently on this second appeal paperwork I have to state that this is a second request for an appeal and we want it accepted because the first paperwork was lost. I’ve got to do this because by only now finding out that none of the appeal stuff was received I am passed the time period I had in which to request an appeal.

This afternoon as I sat still thinking over all I’ve heard this morning I decided to try and speak to the Cosham office so I rang again and yet again was in a queue for over 10 minutes to find out that you can’t be put through to a specific benefit office it all has to go via the call centre who put a link on the system then asking that particular office to call you back!

By talking to this third person I learnt that at the call centre they only have access to certain things on the system they are unable to see any correspondence that has been sent in etc so she can’t understand how the first person I spoke to told me she could see the letter I was talking about.

I also finally had it explained to me why there were two offices involved, if I was a new claimant of ESA then my claim would be dealt with in Cosham that’s why letters I receive have Cosham’s address on it. But because I am moving from Incapacity Benefit to ESA it is dealt with by Hyde.

I did get told this afternoon that the person I’d spoken to this morning had put a link into Cosham and they have said they never received any of my paperwork regarding an appeal.

So now I’ve been advised that when I’ve filled out the appeal form and got any supporting evidence together to phone and make the appointment to go to the job centre and get them to fax it over to where it needs to go to as that will be the quickest and safest way of ensuring it is received.

I suggested to the call centre worker that perhaps letters of acknowledgement should be sent out for example when I do a DLA form I receive a letter to say they have received it and it should be processed in X number of weeks. At least if ESA did that I would of known within 2 weeks of send all the information in that my request hadn’t been received and could of acted on it sooner. I said this whole change over of benefits is stressful enough without having to deal with hearing different things from various people when you phone up and paperwork getting lost. The call centre worker agreed with me and said many of the suggestions disabled people had made the call centre workers agreed with but they were just call centre workers on behalf of DWP so couldn’t do anything

Now I just have to hope when I’ve filled everything in for the appeal that it is accepted and then wait for the outcome.

Panther

Shining the spotlight on cinema accessibility

Our Campaigns Department has teamed up with the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign’s Trailblazers to try to tackle the issue of cinema access, following two separate campaigns run by the charities earlier this year.

The two campaigns had led to approaches from the cinema industry to discuss our respective concerns so Scope and Trailblazers have been working together to present a series of joint proposals to the industry.

We met with representatives from the three largest UK cinema chains – Odeon, Vue and Cineworld – as well as the Cinema Exhibitors Association, the body representing more or less all the cinemas in the country.

There was a very positive atmosphere in the room and while the disability charities obviously approached the issue of access from a different perspective to the industry, there did seem to be a real willingness to listen and learn on both sides.

The topics discussed were influenced directly by what you told us you wanted to see improved at a local level and included physical access to cinemas, the availability of access information online, and the attitude of staff towards disabled people. It was great to hear about some innovative things the industry is doing to improve disability access, but also to quiz them directly about some of the things you’ve told us they could do better.

The suitability of wheelchair spaces in many cinemas was an issue you, and therefore we, were keen to address. The industry said that accessibility in their cinemas was a top consideration. In planning new buildings they said they always tried hard to meet their obligations under the DDA (now the Equality Act). However, they said that even with new buildings there were still issues of the most cost-effective way to use space. Basically, this means that they felt making better provision for people using wheelchairs would come at the expense of the overall seating capacity of the cinema and that they had to balance the need for inclusion with their business need to maximise customer-generated income.

We told them about some of the difficulties you been having with awkwardly-positioned seating at the front and sometimes the extreme edges of the cinema. They said that the industry tries to offer flexibility in seating but that in some older locations this was not always possible. They said that they recognise the preference for seating in the middle of the auditorium to avoid a strained neck rather than at the front but said that the arena-style seating of many modern cinemas make this impractical and expensive to implement (this is partly because the gradient inside the auditorium can be very steep). We asked whether it would be possible for them to include ramps up to the middle area of seating. They said that this would involve taking out seats which would have implications on the numbers of tickets they could sell.

On the issue of providing tickets for carers and support workers, the news was more positive. The CEA card allows for disabled people to purchase tickets for carers at a reduced rate. The industry said they are keen to expand the scheme. We highlighted the importance of online booking facilities in order to make the use of the CEA card easier. Online booking for CEA card users is something that Cineworld already offer on their website and the other industry representatives were keen to follow suit if this approach proved successful.

Many of you told us that you found it difficult to find out online which cinemas and screens were accessible. We said that it was important to improve the access information so that disabled customers can have all the facts ahead of their visit and can avoid the ‘awkward unknown’ or a wasted journey. They said the industry is keen to improve the access information online and are looking at ways to improve the way it is presented. We will keep you posted as to how they get on.

The attitude of staff towards disabled customers was another issue you said was important. We highlighted this and they said they were keen to make sure every customer enjoyed a great experience in their cinemas. We suggested that it might make their training more ‘real’ for their staff if they were able to involve disabled people in the training sessions.

They said they were committed to offering high-quality disability equality training to all of their staff at every level and that they would work with us and disabled people’s organisations to improve its quality and relevance.

Overall the meeting itself was a positive one. It’s good to hear that the industry is committed to addressing your concerns. We will continue to work with them to ensure they understand the importance of accessibility to disabled people and will keep you updated as to how we get on. In particular, we will be pressing for changes to be made as quickly as possible as many disabled people are missing out on the full social experience of going to the cinema right now.

Talking with the industry is only the first step, we are absolutely committed to making sure that they turn words into action, but we need your experiences and your stories to help us do this. Keep sharing your stories with us atcampaigns@scope.org.uk

Touch screen devices and disabled children

Guest post from Elvia Vasconcelos, Includer, North London

 

I first saw the potential of touch screen devices a few months ago when Mary, mum of Julian, a three-year-old with global development delays, handed us an Ipad for us to play. Both I and Julian were thrilled and excited when we saw it lighting up. Julian knew what to do and clicked on the application he wanted to use. I followed in wonder.

So what is an app?

“Application software, also known as an application or an ‘app’, is computer software designed to help the user to perform singular or multiple related specific tasks.” Wikipedia

They can be divided into Web apps and Mobile Apps. I will be referring to the later ones as they are designed to run on smart phones, tablet computers, portable media players and other personal digital assistants.

Out of curiosity, App was voted Word of the Year in 2010 by the American Dialect Society. In 2009 the word was Tweet, the word of the past decade was Google (as a verb) and in the 90s it was Web. There is no escaping it!

Potential of touch screen devices for disabled children

Julian is three and although he picks up on everything his mum says he can’t speak. It is still yet to be seen if he will be able to write in the conventional pen and paper way but when he started the Farm animals app he did spell. I was amazed at the control he had on the device and how intuitive it all felt. That was when I first realised the true potential of the ipad, and more generally touch screen devices for disabled children and how much of an impact they will have on special needs education.

The range of applications in special needs is wide and is constantly growing. A very popular one is AutoVerbal talking soundboard. It’s a text-to-speech program developed for non-verbal people with picture buttons that speak pre-programmed messages (such as “My name is Julian”) and it also has the type anything function that allows for more advanced users to carry on conversations. I found a lot of very enthusiastic reviews on the itunes website from people that have been using these apps with their autistic children and it is easy to see the correlation of these programmes with the already instated communication tools in educational settings such as the Pecs (pictures exchange system), Visual timetables and Makaton. I found a couple of websites very helpful in tackling the 30.000 plus apps available: www.SNApps4kids.com and oneplaceforspecialneeds.com.

Overall, apps can be divided into the areas of communication and speech; language and literacy; behaviour, schedules and social cues; cause/effect. There are also tones of games, musical activities and movies.

Also for medical purposes iBiomed is a mobile software application developed for parents of special needs children, to help in managing the complexities involved with their care. It is handy for all medical conditions, but is even more useful for: Autism, Asthma, Allergies, ADHD, Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Fibromyalga, Migraines, Depression, Bipolar, Schizophrenia, OCD. It’s a free app and there is also an online version if you don’t have any of the touch screen devices. It seems like a very good tool and I have already signed up for a test run.

Happy apping, finger tapping!

Physiotherapy at Orchard Manor

Guest post from Gemma Smith, Physiotherapist.

Physio at Orchard Manor

Physiotherapy doesn’t have to be all about pain, repetitive tasks and intense exercise. At Orchard Manor, we create a fun, functional and action-packed environment for our young people to enjoy, whilst continuing to promote physical health and wellbeing. The young adults at Orchard Manor have profound and multiple learning difficulties and disabilities with a wide range of co-existing physical and health requirements. It takes all of my physiotherapy knowledge to ensure person-centred, individual therapy for each resident through a range of exciting and challenging activities.

Orchard Manor is a residential transition care home run by the disability charity Scope for 31 young people with severe physical, sensory and learning difficulties and disabilities. Our overall aim is to promote skills and put in place programmes to enable these individuals to live as independently as possible in later adult life. Placements last 3 years and within this time we provide a vibrant, supportive and challenging timetable of development and therapy sessions. This encourages people to develop existing and new skills that they can retain and continue to use when they move on in the future. Physiotherapy is a key area in the lives of our residents and my role is to ensure each individual has the vital equipment, individual programmes and input to enable our high level of physiotherapy care and to put in the ground work so that this continues within the wider community when our residents move on. Orchard Manor practices a multi-disciplinary method of working and therefore I work within an extensive team of professionals, sharing knowledge and expertise to ensure that each young person is supported to maintain and extend their abilities. Orchard Manor has an onsite Skills Development Centre which delivers sessions in art, drama, music, media, ICT, cookery, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and physiotherapy. We aim to ensure that an individual’s time at Orchard Manor is full of functional experiences as well as fun and satisfaction.

I take a ‘hands on’ approach to my role and I see each of our residents between 2-4 times per week depending on their level of physical disability and need. I provide physiotherapy intervention within a group setting or on an individual basis depending on the task or activity being provided. Each of our groups are carefully created to combine residents with similar cognitive and communicative skills in order for us to customise activities to suit their level of understanding and ability. I work in many different environments to ensure physiotherapy is a functional and daily aspect of our resident’s lives e.g. I spend lot of time within the residential flats ensuring equipment and physical management programmes are being correctly carried out by support staff. I also support residents in the community whether that is the local public swimming pool, gym or accessing local horse riding facilities. My plan is to combine social integration and physical wellbeing into the day to day lives of the young people.

Physiotherapy sessions at Orchard Manor are always full of laughter, games and opportunity. I work on the trampoline four mornings a week providing Rebound Therapy for all residents. This acts as an ideal platform to complete alternative positioning, stretching programmes and functional tasks such as bridging and rolling. Each individual completes a specific programme working on their level of mobility and physical aims. Some of our residents are able to bounce with support. However some require adaptive equipment to support their physical position and trained staff to assist them in passively moving their limbs in order to complete stretches and activities such as throwing and catching. Every resident works towards personal goals appropriate to their level of cognition and physical ability. This may be through a sensory experience, increased body awareness, independent sitting or rolling, standing or bouncing. Any physical activity completed on the trampoline during Rebound Therapy also enhances the respiratory system, circulatory systems and bladder and bowel function. This therapy is accessible to most of the young people who live at Orchard Manor and is very popular. As I mentioned at the beginning, my aim is to ensure that physiotherapy intervention is not painful or boring but fun and enjoyable.

Another facility we have at Orchard Manor is a hydrotherapy pool. I run hydrotherapy sessions four afternoons a week for residents who are unable to access the local community swimming pools, either due to accessibility or the temperature of these pools. Our pool is specially adapted with excellent changing facilities and a hoisting system straight into the water. I especially enjoy working with our profoundly physically disabled residents in the water as they are able to achieve so much more mobility and function due to the weightlessness this environment provides. I am able to effectively support the residents to achieve certain positions which would not be possible on land. For example, some young people use wheelchairs at all times throughout the day, but they are able to stand and take steps in the water with suitable support from myself and adaptive hydrotherapy equipment. The 34°- 36° temperature in our hydrotherapy pool also allows muscle relaxation and hence further stretching potential for those with contracted limbs. The young people may help actively with their stretching programmes or we may support them passively to achieve as much additional range of movement as possible. Within this controlled, relaxing and sensory water environment, the residents don’t perceive physiotherapy as painful or intense, but pleasurable, comfortable and safe.

Another very important aspect of the young people’s physiotherapy intervention focuses on mobility and physical activity through active exercise. We have a range of adaptive pieces of equipment to support individuals to achieve this. Our focus during the 3 years people are at Orchard Manor, is to ensure that everyone has their own equipment for long term future use. We support individuals and their families to proceed with the funding for these pieces of highly specialised equipment via private funding or applications through the health or social authorities. I work closely with the Occupational Therapist to ensure the equipment is individually assessed so that it is suitable and physically beneficial for the person who will use it. We have very close links to representatives from large equipment companies and they visit Orchard Manor on a regular basis to demonstrate new equipment and maintain and reassess our existing equipment. This means that our residents remain safe, supported and comfortable and benefit from advances as they become available.

Our young people have an array of standing frames, walking frames, side lying boards, tricycles, comfortable seating and sleeping systems all individually adapted for their use. The extensive grounds at Orchard Manor include a private road that orbits the entire site and can safely be used for tricycle riding and walking. This provides a change of scenery and a stimulating environment in which to complete these activities. Mobility for residents comes in a range of different forms depending on the physical needs of each person’s body. We use the most adaptable walking frames to achieve walking/stepping with the most unlikely to mobilise residents. As you can imagine, this creates a satisfying and rewarding personal achievement along with the health and physical benefits gained from moving and being in an upright position.

Postural care is a major aspect of each individual’s physiotherapy regime. Our staff ensure that positive postural positioning, for each young person, is applied 24 hours a day and individual photographic and written programmes are composed by myself for the support staff, families and the residents themselves to follow. Alternative positions are implemented within the day, whether that is in a music session, whilst watching a film, when eating or drinking, or in an individual’s free time. I work with residents and liaise with our care and skills development staff to identify the most beneficial and appropriate positions for each person when using adaptive equipment. Each resident also completes weekly small group physiotherapy sessions that focus on positioning. During this time individuals are supported 1:1 by a member of staff and, following my directions, achieve a suitable position, whether that be in standing, sitting, lying on their back, front or side. When each resident is positioned correctly and comfortably we complete a range of activities such as bowling, puzzles, sensory object manipulation, exercise tape recordings, drawing, looking at books or using table-top games. This again incorporates function, fun and positive positioning for our young people.

Another session we complete weekly within physiotherapy is integrating postural care with passive movements. Each resident is positioned in a relaxed neutral position and supported 1:1 by a member of staff. We complete a full body passive movement stretch routine to assist the young people to maintain their current range of movement and muscle flexibility. I lead this session and my aim is to educate staff so that these activities are completed as part of an individual’s daily stretching routine within the residential flats. With practice, advice, demonstration and observation during these sessions, the confidence and competence of our support staff greatly increases and we ensure each member of staff works with different residents with different physical presentations to enable further progression.

I am committed to the role I play in staff training which greatly benefits the residents. I lead formal training on Postural Care and Passive Movements, indicating the aims, benefits and safety precautions within these topics. I include a practical demonstration of full body passive stretches and a sleep system demonstration. Support staff use sleep systems with residents on a nightly basis, without immediate physiotherapist assistance and so this training is vital to ensure that sleep systems are used effectively and safely. This training has been extremely successful and popular. It has helped support staff to further their knowledge and understanding of these important aspects of care. I also train staff to assist our residents in the hydrotherapy pool so that they can make the most of this facility in the evenings and at weekends.

I have mentioned just some of the activities I complete with the residents at Orchard Manor, however every day is different and we adapt, change and explore alternative ideas all the time to achieve exciting and beneficial results. The young people I support are extremely important to me. Their care, independence and enjoyment are always at the forefront of all my physiotherapy intervention and I strive to ensure that their health, happiness and physical wellbeing is well maintained and monitored. Orchard Manor Transition Service is a fantastic place to work and the attitudes of the staff combined with the facilities and high standard of care ensure that each person’s needs are met and that they are happy, motivated and ready for the challenges the future is sure to bring.