As 2021 draws to an end, we look back on one of our most frequent guests – Parenting Additional Needs! This local organisation is based in Matlock and Wirksworth and has been supporting parents and carers of children with additional needs, such as autism, ADHD, and other often invisible conditions for 10 years. In addition to offering support groups, and campaigning for awareness, PAN also runs fun activity sessions for the young people in their group, including at Mount Cook.
PAN often come to Mount Cook once a week on Sunday, or sometime throughout half term to do a few hours fun adventurous activities. While at Mount Cook the children do activities like Bush craft, Orienteering, Land Karts and High Ropes. PAN were even one of the first groups to try out our new Low Ropes course! It’s a great opportunity to get outside and get active with like minded children in a safe, controlled environment – there’s always a choice of activity to accommodate for children with demand avoidance, and the children will see familiar faces from the instructional staff each week.
We spoke to Helen from PAN about her experiences at Mount Cook:
Do you think the children and parents from your group had a hard time over lock down?
"Yes, they had a hard time because some families had hardly any support. Their daily Routines changed which is very difficult for some of our children especially those with ASD. I would say a lot of families felt quite isolated."
Does coming to Mount Cook regularly have any long terms effects, for example at home or at school?
"It is a place where our children can be themselves because our families feel at ease being around people who understand. The surroundings and activities also really help our children to team build and achieve to do thing that sometimes our children find difficult."
Which other activities would you recommend to parents of children with additional needs, especially on the run up to Christmas?
"I think it would be nice for children and their families with additional needs to have somewhere to go where they can be themselves and for parents to feel comfortable. You need to be aware most of our families and children can be judged by others especially when some children may have meltdowns. Being amongst those that understand is very important.
I think some family nature walks around the area would be nice. Maybe some orienteering map reading for the children to keep them focused and identifying different trees , plants etc
I understand this may not be for everyone but often I get comments that it isn’t very often our family’s get to do things together in an environment they don’t feel judged.
Also, maybe some bush craft Christmas decoration making activities like wreath making."
Disability and Physical Activity
Disability, both physical and mental can affect activity level – a report by Active Lives showed that in November 2021, those who are affected by a long-term health condition or disability were recorded as 21% less active than those without.
The same report states that a shocking 24% of children with long term illness or disability report to “often or always feel lonely”, compared to 6% of children with no long-term condition.
Even something less physically demanding like a bush craft session is a great way to learn social skills, improve fine motor skills, and engage the brain through learning something new and getting creative. Spending quality time in the outdoors can provide a sensory experience for children with additional needs, which in turn reduces anxiety and focuses attention.
One PAN parent said, "The adventure sessions at Mount Cook are fantastic. They have taught our 7 year old daughter so many new skills. She has grown in confidence and tried lots of new activities she may not otherwise have done due to the supportive staff and their kind and sensitive approach. Our daughter is better regulated from a sensory and physical perspective during and after the sessions. The sessions have also provided important social interaction opportunities for our daughter in a supportive, kind and understanding environment which she has been able to transfer to school."
Getting outside this winter
Getting that vital time outside is especially important over the winter months as the days get shorter. It’s also a great time for activities with children you can’t do for the rest of the year, like spotting mushrooms and berries, collecting autumnal coloured leaves, splashing in a muddy puddle, or a snowball fight and sledging if we’re lucky!
For more ideas on engaging with the outdoor this winter, visit; www.visitpeakdistrict.com/things-to-do/activities.
Outdoor activity is proven to increase confidence, positive attitudes, and build bonds between children based on common interests and understanding. It’s absolutely key to the core values of Mount Cook to provide children with additional needs with a safe space to try something new and make these all-important connections with each other and our members of staff.
Mount Cook works with lots of other charities and organisations for children throughout the year, including PIP UK, The Haemophilia Society, Nation Deaf Children’s Society, and the Cavernoma Alliance UK. The value of being together and being outdoors has never been more apparent!
A huge thank you to PAN for helping us facilitate these outdoor experiences with such an amazing group of children and parents.
If you would like to find out more about what PAN do, please visit: parentingadditionalneeds.org.uk.
Or visit their Facebook here.
If you would like to book a trip or experience for your charity, please enquire now: firstname.lastname@example.org or 01629 823 702.
Thank you to Helen and Emily from Parenting Additional Needs for your insight!