Hi, I’m Zoe and I am the Children and Young People’s Service Lead for Northamptonshire. I have been with Autism East Midlands for just over 2 years and before that I was a family support worker at Autism Concern for 18 months.
As part of the Children’s Flexible Support Team here in Northamptonshire we offer Youth Clubs and Holiday Clubs which are supported by BBC Children in Need and run across the county of Northamptonshire. Most of the Youth Clubs are run at the weekend for 4 hours, we have an evening Youth Club for over the age of 11 for 2 hours, our Holidays Clubs are also run during the school holidays for 5 hours.
What does a typical day at a Weekend Youth Club or Holiday Club look like?
Everyone is always greeted with a smile and a hello, coats and bags are hung up, lunch boxes are put away. A small group will go to the shop with a member of staff to buy the snack needed for the day, they can help choose the snack, budget and pay for the snacks, this helps build their confidence, listening skills and social interaction. There are games and toys out and a morning activity for those wanting to take part. This can be baking – cooking is a favourite at Youth Club, we have made pizza’s, cakes, Easter nests, biscuits as well as marshmallow snowmen. Messy activities are a popular choice and we have made everything from slime to exploding pumpkins.
There is always a trip to the park, for a run around, climbing, spinning and sometimes a game of football. Lunch is a social event, and there tends to be lots of conversations going on. There is always a choice of where the young person wants to sit, that may be outside if it’s a nice day, or on the comfy seats depending where we are.
Every young person that attends a Youth or Holiday Club will have person centred forms completed by experienced staff, this will include a Positive Behaviour Support Plan and Individual Risk Assessment as well as detailed information provided by parents/ carers.
Why come to a Youth Club / Holiday Club?
Some of the reason’s parents want their children and young people to attend a youth club are, to make friends, to go somewhere they fit in, get them out of their bedroom, off the electronics, some time together for the rest of the family. Our aim is to provide a safe space for young people where they can be themselves and not worry about being judged and where they can have fun. I think we achieve this. We find that every young person that attends is able to be themselves in a non-judgmental environment, they can talk about their favourite topic without peers getting cross or bored, they can self-regulate without people asking questions, they can also learn to be tolerant of other people’s needs, and understand what Autism means to others.
Some young people attend the club and think they are the only one who is Autistic, they soon realise they are not. We see friendships forming and the peer on peer support is always heart-warming to see. The support for each other is very strong at the clubs, we see encouragement, understanding, kindness and patience and that’s all form the young people, these are all skills they develop while being at a youth or holiday club.
What’s in it for the parents?
While your Child is at a Youth Club you get to go shopping in peace, go and have lunch out, spend time with your other children, family members or friends, decorate, get housework done or just take time for yourself.
If you have a child between the ages of 8 – 18 and are interested in them attending a Youth Club or Holiday Club, please visit the Northamptonshire Service Page and get in contact with me.