Pathfinders (Swindon)

Pathfinders promote personal development of disabled young people and adults through challenging activities. 

The Project 
Pathfinders was set up at the request  of some young people with disabilities at the school I and two other committee members worked They asked if it would be possible to go away out of school time and have a go at  some of the activities their peer group did. Most outdoor activity centres for people with disabilities work with groups so making it difficult for parents to take them individual. We coax them to have a go at things they have not been able to do before e.g. abseil down a cliff face; get them to communicate with their instructors not us. Some members find it hard to be with strangers.  The grant requested is to support the costs of a residential trip in the Lake District.

What you hoped to achieve:

Our members will have the opportunity to try many activities they never thought they would be able to do so  proving to them selves and other just what they can do given the right opportunity. This will boost their self confidence  and as they will be expected to choose their own clothes to wear each day and pick and collect their own meals wash up lay tables and keep their rooms tidy they will become more independent  small thing but not many of them do these things at home /school.

Results so far:

This year we took G (a 12 year old who has cerebral palsy but is able to walk short distances).  I had never met G, as parent had not attended any or the pre-trip get togethers until the morning of our departure.  He stood glued to his mum’s side until the coach left and he sat with another new lad from his school.  I could not get more than a yes or no out of him the whole journey.

When we arrived at the centre, G and some of the others got a shock when they found they had to make their own beds.  This took quite a time with much cursing and laughter from them to put on pillow cases and duvet covers.  We did a tour of the grounds of the centre and G took a lot of encouraging from instructors and our own volunteers to attempt the most basic of climbing and balancing apparatus around the site.  Back in the dining room G refused to eat several of the options on offer.  Eventually the cook made him a sandwich which he ate eventually.  A phone call home confirmed he does not eat much and is very fussy (which had not been filled in on dietary requirements for him).

The first evening G chose to go in the sensory room and watch a film rather than go in sports hall with most of the others.  Come bed time (10pm) he was found sobbing in his room. It turned out he had been told he was going on a little treat and had not realised he was going so far and for a whole week.  After a long chat with him and telling him no one would make him do anything he did not want to do, showing him where my room was and that he could come and get me at any time, he went back to his room and when I checked he was fast asleep. 

The next morning G asked where his clothes were and we replied in your drawers.  He said his mum always laid them out for him.  He checked what his room-mates were doing and did the same.

The first challenge for G’s group was the climbing and zip wire.  He hung back for a long time but after watching the others and having loads of encouragement from instructors he ventured on the zip wire then the climbing wall.

From day 2, there was no stopping him, he took on every challenge very nervously but his face said it all when he achieved.  We also had no trouble with him eating his meals, dressing and he always took a shower every day.  His stamina built up and by the end of the week he was taking part in the evening activities and staying up for the hot chocolate and biscuits (at home he is in bed by 7pm).

G started the week as a withdrawn timid little boy but he went home a lively lad who helped other more disabled than him to pack their case, strip their beds and would generally do anything asked of him.


Grant awarded: