This year’s Learning Disability Awareness Week (17th-23rd June) has a theme of Sport and Inclusion, encouraging people with a learning disability to be active and see the benefits of physical activity including; improving physical health and wellbeing, empowerment and social inclusion.
Our community based learning disability services- Elysium Care Partnerships provide support for those who have profound and multiple learning disabilities, autism and sensory communication difficulties. These services deliver specialist care that meets Transforming Care priorities and ensures care is tailored to the individual’s needs, enabling them to lead independent, meaningful lives as active members of the community.
School House in London is part of the Elysium Care Partnerships group of services and is very much part of the local community, having an excellent relationship with nearby London Irish Rugby Football Club. London Irish were approached by School House to use their grounds for residents to walk around as a safe space where no dogs are allowed which causes distress for some of the service users.
London Irish were happy to open up the grounds for this purpose, but in addition to this through the London Irish Foundation offered Tag Rugby sessions specifically tailored for people with learning disabilities and autism to the residents of School House.
The London Irish Foundation deliver projects that use the power of sport to make a lasting, positive impact on individuals’ lives and build a meaningful and sustainable legacy for sport and education across our communities. Laurisa Robson, London Irish Foundation Inclusion Officer said, “Within this, our key work strands are rugby development, education, community engagement and inclusion, all of which are underpinned by our core values – family, home from home, open to all, with rugby at the heart”.
The 60 minute Tag Rugby sessions are a combination of individual and team games that are active, interactive and enable participants to learn new skills. The sessions are completely accessible regardless of the complexity of the individual needs, and the London Irish Foundation staff who facilitate the sessions understand each individuals trigger points, likes/ dislikes and things to avoid.
School House have seen some fantastic results from the sessions with London Irish and how sport and being active can have a positive impact on an individual’s life. Providing people with learning disabilities accessible opportunities to be physically active and participate in sport has numerous benefits such as helping to reduce loneliness and isolation, improving their confidence and helping them to make new friends.
Physical activity can also have a positive influence on an individual’s behaviour, which has been evident at School House with one particular resident. Here his mother share’s her personal thoughts on how the sessions with London Irish have helped her son not only with his behaviour but also built his confidence and enabled him to experience new things.
“When my son first arrived at School House we needed to find somewhere safe for him to walk, away from dogs and other things that might potentially cause him distress. School House approached London Irish and asked if he could use their ground to walk around daily- they agreed and slowly he started to walk around the ground each morning. This in itself made a huge difference to him, allowing him to get some physical exercise outside, three years on he still goes to the London Irish ground each day and occasionally he walks/ runs two laps of the ground! The staff at London Irish are so friendly to my son, always saying hello to him-everyone knows him there now.”
“As a youngster my son didn’t like games that involved balls, if someone offered to throw a ball to him, he’d catch it but get rid of it as quickly as he could, it wasn’t something he enjoyed at all. When we were told that London Irish were offering Rugby sessions and that my son was going to attend them, we were really surprised, as we wouldn’t have expected him to show any interest at all. One day I received a photo of my son at one of the rugby sessions running with a ball- it was amazing, he was smiling! We couldn’t believe it. It was a picture that we never thought we’d see, as he hadn’t done anything like it in his life. My son still attends these sessions and continues with his daily walk/ run around the ground, he is much calmer now and his behaviours have almost gone too. To some this might only seem a small step but to us as a family it was huge.”
For more information about learning disability week please visit the Mencap website https://www.mencap.org.uk/get-involved/learning-disability-week-2019
For further details about Elysium Care Partnership please visit https://www.elysiumhealthcare.co.uk/learning-disabilities-autism/community-based-services/