Tag Archives: learning disabilities

“I want to have a job, get paid, go out, enjoy myself”

Nusrat is 27 years old and recently started a job as a Lab Aide at the Sainsbury’s Wellcome Centre, with help from Scope’s Future Ambitions employment service.

For Learning Disability Work Experience Week, Nusrat shares her journey in to work and her goals for the future.

When I was at school I was thinking –  I want to get paid, I want to earn my own money and that’s what I want to do for my future. I went to college, then when I finished college I went to Project Search which finished in July. Project Search gave me training to help me get a job. I also did First Impressions, First Experiences with Scope. I liked it. I made loads of friends there. We did mock interviews, learning more skills, that kind of thing. That has helped me.

Work experience helped me get a job

I was going to Newham’s employment service and a Workplace advisor told me and my mum about work experience through Project Search. I thought it sounded good, that’s why I wanted to do it.

The work experience was good. I liked working with my tutor and job coach from Project Search. I liked working in the kitchen, giving patients tea and coffee in the morning. I liked working in the canteen, emptying the bins and cleaning the tables. I learned new skills. I learned to give food to customers and how to make tea. I learned to use the till. I did that with a colleague. I worked as a host. I was learning to be a housekeeper. I didn’t like that, it made me feel sick. I was also in an office, typing, answering phones. I enjoyed it. I liked it. We finished at the end of July and had an awards ceremony. My mum came. She said she was very proud of me.

I learned about listening to colleagues and managers. I learned how to make tea. I learned about working with people. I also learned about interview skills. Doing the work experience helped me get my job.

Nusrat sat at a long table smiling, with a cup of tea

Support to do my job

Jodi from Scope told me about the job at the Wellcome Trust. I wanted to come here and work in the lab. I came here for an interview. I was brave, confident, and polite. I liked it. Jodi was there too. I love this job. I want to do it, I enjoy it and I like my colleagues.

I like Jodi because she’s really friendly and very helpful. She supports me so my mum knows it’s okay, she’ll look after me. Jodi comes in to visit me at work. It’s nice to see her and I like working with her. If she doesn’t visit, I can just give her a text. It’s nice to have someone to talk to.

It’s difficult for me to travel. A taxi comes to pick me up and takes me home, takes me to work. Jodi has sorted things out for me. If I didn’t have the taxi it would be difficult for me to do this job.

My hopes for the future

I’ve never experienced bad attitudes. I’ve worked with some good people. It was hard to find a job at first though. I don’t know why, I’m not sure. I was looking for jobs but they wouldn’t hire me. Employers need to change their attitudes and respect other people.

I work hard. Working with other people has improved my skills. In the future I’d like to be able to go out with my family, go shopping, help out at home. I have lots of friends and that makes me happy. I go to a friendship club to meet other friends and I enjoy it. I want to have a job, get paid, go out, enjoy myself. This is what I want to do for my future.

If you would like to share a story about work experience or employment, get in touch with the Stories team.

Enjoy live music? Why not join Gig Buddies!

It’s not always easy for music fans with learning disabilities to get out to gigs. But Gig Buddies, a volunteer project run by the charity Stay Up Late, is changing all that. Director and co-founder, Paul Richards explains how.

Gig Buddies was one of those ideas you assume someone must have already thought of. We were wondering if there was a way to make use of the spare seats in people’s cars as they travelled to gigs, and whether people with learning disabilities who love the same music could occupy those seats.

That would give people with learning disabilities an opportunity to, not only see live music but also extend their social networks beyond typical care settings.

It was an idea that developed, and we spent around a year laying the groundwork for the project before it launched in Jan 2013. We conducted some research to find out what the barriers were to people getting out. We found the reasons were things like having no money, being low in confidence, not being able to access public transport at night, not knowing what’s going on, and not having anyone to go with.

But what we also found was there was a real desire for people with learning disabilities to be getting out there.

What makes a good Gig Buddies volunteer?

We also thought about why people didn’t volunteer, and we decided it was largely because they didn’t have the time or didn’t know what to do. So the idea behind Gig Buddies was simple: it was about turning something people enjoyed doing into a volunteering opportunity.

There are really only two requirements: you have to be a nice person, and you have to have an interest.

We have volunteers from a wide variety of backgrounds, with a diverse range of interests. While Gig Buddies started out being about live music, it’s now grown to include things like the theatre, nature walks, church and sport. The point is that participants are in control of choosing their ‘gig’, whatever that may be.

One of the key aspects of Gig Buddies is that it’s all about relationships. It’s about enabling socially isolated people to develop friendship circles, and we spend a lot of time meeting with everyone – participants and volunteers – to find out what their interests are.

We ask that every volunteer commits to at least one gig a month and also meets up for a coffee once a month with their buddy to plan the next trip. All our volunteers receive training and on-going support once they have been matched.

The other core principle of Gig Buddies is about enabling people with learning disabilities to make real choices about the way they lead their lives, and to pursue interests they enjoy in their local community. At Stay Up Late we often get asked why we don’t organise more events for people with learning disabilities. Our belief is that all events should be open to everyone, including people with learning disabilities. This is something that underpins our work.

What’s next for Gig Buddies?

We now have over 60 participants and 60 volunteers, and a full waiting list. We are committed to developing our project in Sussex.
However, we can’t run the project beyond Sussex, as its strength of relies on relationships. So we’re aiming to share it.

Our first pilot site is in Sydney, Australia – with ACL Disability Services – and it’s attracted a lot of excitement over there. Several other large cities also wanting to get involved. The second pilot site is in Midlothian, and being run by Thera Scotland.

The next step is to work with organisations who share the same ethos as us, and this year we’re planning to invite another 10 organisations to work with us and set up Gig Buddies in their locality.

There’s a lot more I could write about the project, but it’s probably best left to one of our participants, Bella to tell you about it. Bella has a mild learning disability, depression and anxiety. She has had a Gig Buddy for a year now, and has gone to lots of gigs.

Bella says: “Before I had a Gig Buddy, I felt like I was lost at the weekends. I had never been to a music gig before, but having a Gig Buddy has meant that I’ve discovered new music. It means that I can travel to Brighton, which I couldn’t do before. Once you start going out you are more able to do other things – it improves your confidence.”

For more information about Gig Buddies visit the Stay up Late websiteStay Up Late is a small Brighton based charity that promotes full and active social lives for people with learning disabilities.

10 Christmas present tips for parents and carers

The festive season can be a stressful time. Our online community has hundreds of practical tips to help you this season – from dealing with extended family to having days out.

Here are some of our favourite tips from the community for buying, wrapping and giving presents this Christmas:

1. Have a whip round

Friends and family never seem to know what to get George for Christmas and what they do give him nearly always ends up getting
broken or ignored. So this year I’ve suggested they contribute towards buying him a tablet, which he will definitely use. I think they’re quite relieved not to have the stress of choosing something for him.

2. Sparkly Christmas paper

For visually impaired children or those with a sensory impairment,
buy lots of sparkly Christmas wrapping paper as it’s very good for
catching and holding their visual attention. Gold, in particular, or anything with a rainbow/prism effect seems to work well.

3. A few of my favourite things

Wrap up some old favourite toys as Christmas presents if your child is not keen on opening presents as they have new and unfamiliar things in them. You can secretly hide some favourite things in the weeks leading up to Christmas – sometimes unwrapping something familiar is very reassuring!

4. Sometimes the simple things are the best

A couple of years ago we bought Reece helium balloons, and I think we spent about a tenner – and that was what he played with all day! Whereas everything else we got him, he didn’t want any of it!

5. Play with wrapping paper

Give wrapping paper to play with ahead of Christmas, cut, tear… so your child gets comfortable with the noise and look of it. Choose less
‘visually noisy’ paper and avoid patterns that can produce sensory
difficulties to your child.

disabled-girl-given-present6. Ready to go

When we give our daughter a gift, we make sure all packaging is removed, batteries are in, and it is set up ready to use as soon as she’s unwrapped it. For someone with limited attention and suspicion of new things it can make the difference between acceptance and rejection.

7. Spread out the presents

Don’t feel that all the presents have to be opened on Christmas morning in the traditional way. Our son would get so overwhelmed he couldn’t cope so it was much easier to allow him a few gifts at a time throughout Christmas Day and Boxing Day. He opened them all in the end without any tantrums and was much calmer and happier, meaning we all had a far more enjoyable time!

8. Design your own wrapping paper

Get your family to design wrapping paper. Simply buy lots of plain brown paper and allow them to have fun with paints in seasonal
colours.

Parents-with-disabled-son-unwrapping-Christmas-presents-half-size9. Opening cards and presents

My son has trouble with fine motor skills so I ‘doctor’ his cards and presents to allow him to open them easily. Makes for a much happier time for all and gives him a sense of satisfaction that he can complete tasks!

10. Don’t forget the giving

Help and encourage the person you are caring for to give gifts. This provides an excellent opportunity to work on social skills like thinking of other people, other people’s needs and interests and being kind and helpful. I support my daughter to make gifts for her family and friends. She also looks forward to actually giving out the presents as well!

Got your own tips to share? Share them on the community or let us know in the comments below.

(Photo credit: Katy Warner)

Let’s talk about sex!

It’s hard to escape the heart-shaped balloons and teddy bears at this time of year but just how many of us have had ‘the conversation’ with our children, says Netbuddy’s sex and relationships expert Gill Leno?

Why people with learning disabilities deserve good sex and relationships education

Gill Leno

Sex and relationships education can be hit and miss at the best of times. Even in mainstream schools it’s fair to say that it can be inconsistent; young people frequently report that it’s too little, too late, and too focused on the biological end of things.

For children and young people with learning disabilities, a good, well-rounded awareness of sex and relationships is particularly important as it helps to protect against abuse and exploitation. It also helps in learning about appropriate behaviour, and making positive choices both sexually and socially.

Good sex and relationships education allows children to explore their bodies and their sexuality in a safer way, by giving them facts and information. Sexuality is a deeply personal thing, and learning how to express it is important for all young people, regardless of disability. Educating children and young people about sex in a positive, non-biased means they will have the same information as their peers in mainstream education. Sex education that is given in an accessible and inclusive way helps avoid the danger of misinterpreted information. It ensures young people understand exactly what sex entails and what consent really means.

Good sex and relationships education plays an enormous part in supporting young people to achieve independence and self confidence. The earlier we start, the better.

Talk to me

However, it can be a bit of a challenge if it’s something you don’t feel confident about. That’s why I’m here. I run a sex and relationships forum on Netbuddy, where I am happy to talk about anything – staying safe, body changes, what the law says, what sort of resources are out there and more. I can answer questions around the more practical end of talking about sex and relationships, for example how I teach about things like condoms and contraception and how my experiences might be useful for you.

It’s time sex and relationships education was brought out into the open and discussed properly. Whatever is being done at school and college can only go so far without the support and contributions of parents and carers. It really does need to be a combined effort. So let’s share! It takes a lot to make me blush, so please feel free to ask me anything.

Gill is waiting for your questions on the Netbuddy forum now. Why not drop her a line? And don’t forget to check out Netbuddy’s Sex and Relationships info pack too.

10 tips for parents and carers this Christmas

Guest post by Emma from Netbuddy. Next year Netbuddy will be joining Scope.

The festive season can be a stressful time, especially if someone in your family has learning difficulties or autism. So, to help you put the fun back into Christmas, we’ve pulled together these tips from parents and carers. Download all the tips in a PDF (731KB).

Christmas presents

English: Gift ideas for men - wrapping paper e...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. A few of my favourite things – Wrap up some old favourite toys as Christmas presents if your child is not keen on opening presents as they have new and unfamiliar things in them. You can secretly hide some favourite things in the weeks leading up to Christmas – sometimes unwrapping something familiar is very reassuring!

2. Use foil – Foil is an excellent wrapping paper. It is very sensory and makes for an easy to open present!

3. Ribbon for wrapping paper – Instead of using wrapping paper, I wrapped a present in a piece of material and tied with a ribbon. Once the ribbon was in person’s hand she pulled and hey presto, she had unwrapped it herself!

Christmas decorations

English: Artificial Christmas tree with lights...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

4. Decorations outside of the house – If your child can’t cope with decorations being on the outside of the house, try telling them that the house is getting dressed up for Christmas!

5. A sensory tree – We have sensory items on our Christmas tree. Different textures, smells and things that make sounds – so the little girl I look after with a visual impairment can enjoy it too!

Christmas visitors

6. Preparing for a crowded house – I’ve started to prepare my son for a crowded house at Christmas by inviting his friends around for Sunday Club and making a party for the family to have dinner or a disco. Announce visitors on your child’s visual timetable. Allow quiet time if he/she needs to step out.

7. Talk to family members – Talk to family members ahead of time. Discuss your child’s specific needs, and gently but firmly tell them what your plans are. Be sure to let them know that this will make the whole experience better for everyone. Ask for their support.

8. Prepare a calm place – I used to worry about Dan’s behaviour when spending time at family member’s homes over the festive season. Basically, I’d take him and hope for the best! However, I’ve found that planning and preparation in advance hugely helps. I work with my family and we make sure we have a calm room or a space he can go to for when it all gets too much. I put his favourite blanket in there. Having some time alone, or just with me keeps meltdowns to a minimum.

The excitement

Girl unwrapping presents

9. Spread out the presents – Don’t feel that all the presents have to be opened on Christmas morning in the traditional way. Our son would get so overwhelmed he couldn’t cope so it was much easier to allow him a few gifts at a time throughout Christmas Day and Boxing Day. He opened them all in the end without any tantrums and was much calmer and happier, meaning we all had a far more enjoyable time!

10. Stay Calm! – If your child reacts badly to stress, staying relaxed and low-key over the Christmas period is one of the best things you can do to keep your child’s behavior in line. Save the tantrum (yours) for when you get home.

What are your top tips for Christmas? Let us know in the comments below.