Hi, my name is Bailey and I work for Edge as a support worker!
On Friday I got the chance to attend and speak at the Hear Our Voices, Respect Our Choices event run by ARC Scotland and the Scottish Transitions Forum, which focused on disabled young adults transitioning from childhood to adulthood.
There are so many ways in which we can support young people during a transition process, but there are also things we can do before or even after to help them feel prepared for the independence that comes with adulthood. One of these ways is to travel or to try new experiences, and I’m going to talk (although I guess I should say ‘write’) about this and the benefits these can have on people’s confidence and self-worth.
Trying New And Challenging Experiences
I spoke to some of the young people who have come on trips with us, and asked them what they thought about pushing themselves to try new and maybe scary things! They told me that they love the chance to make new friends and hang out with like-minded people. Often they can feel ignored by their neurotypical peers and feel uncomfortable speaking up. Being around like-minded people can have a huge impact on someone’s confidence and mental health. We all love to feel we are part of a tribe.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
So many of us are scared to try new things or have the fear of the unknown. Having that fear can turn something small into your own Frankenstein’s Monster and you convince yourself it’s not something you are capable of doing. Taking that leap of faith will not only demonstrate to everyone around you that you ARE capable, it will also prove it to yourself!
Being outdoors is great for your mental health. Being around good friends is great for your mental health. Laughing and having fun is great for your mental health! Feeling like you’ve accomplished something is great for your mental health! Many of the young people I work with have heightened sensory perception, so the feeling of sand can be uncomfortable. Did that stop any of them getting outside, onto that beach and into those waves? NOPE! Did the sand ruin the experience? No, they didn’t even notice. We were all having way too much fun, being outside and with our tribe.
What Have We Learned From Our Trips Away
The big thing for a lot of our clients is the ability to make friends and sustain those friendships. Our trips away mean one team, one dream. They can learn how to navigate social situations and many of them told me that they can use these skills in their everyday lives if it’s with their family, co-workers or in an educational setting.
I don’t know about any of you, but I LOVE to travel. I love the beach, I love the smell of suntan lotion. I love finding little market places and eating local cuisine. It might surprise you that the people I support have a similar sense of wanderlust, a craving to learn about cultures and experience new things. Being open-minded can help shape our personalities and likes and dislikes. This will encourage our feelings of self-identity and self-worth, both of which have a huge impact on our mental health and well-being.
We managed to catch some winter sun and some waves when we went surfing in Spain in January. Not only was it fantastic to see our clients in holiday mode, swimming in the pool and those who wanted to would have a cocktail with dinner, but it was heart-warming to watch the whole group support each other with surfing and offer time, patience and advice to those that were struggling (which was mostly me, by the way. As someone who used to be a dancer, I overestimated my balancing skills on a surfboard!)
Our young people told me that going away helped them feel responsible, not just for them but for their friends too. Building that sense of responsibility can help prepare you for independent adult life, and being proud of tackling big steps like going away for your first holiday without your family will increase your self-confidence and sense of pride!
Helping Others Try New Things
How can we help others to try new things and get out of their comfort zone? This is a no brainer-Be encouraging! Try new things for yourself! If the individuals I work with want to try something new, I take it as an opportunity for me to try something new! A lot of young people look to their support team as peers on some level, so help them explore their brave side and find yours too! I always tell people part of my job spec is to be a cheerleader and I don’t think I’ve gone a workday without cheering someone on for something, big or small.
And our clients said the same! They told me they wanted their team to:
“Be encouraging and optimistic. Listen to us and let us try things and make mistakes for ourselves. New things can be difficult to do for anyone, I know how to ask for help if I need it”.
What About When Things Don’t Go To Plan?
Unfortunately, I think we all now have experience with this, since the Covid-19 Pandemic. Most of us can adjust and although we don’t particularly want to, we understand it’s out of our control and we adapt to our surroundings. For some people, it isn’t as easy as that and a big unplanned change can affect their anxiety levels. I asked our young people what they want from us if things don’t go to plan:
- “Stay calm. If you sound like you’re freaked out, I’m going to be freaked out!
- Making a new step by step plan can help if something is changed.
- Listen to how I’m feeling and understand why I’m worried.
- Always having a plan B is a way to minimise the stress of last-minute changes”.
As a support worker, the best advice I could give anyone is to listen, listen and listen some more! Often people will hide behind bravado, listen to the words they are saying. And ask! Not everyone I’ve worked with is verbal, but everyone I’ve worked with can and will tell me how they’re feeling. Communication isn’t just words, its noises, its body language, its facial expressions and its gestures! I think there’s this preconceived conception that individuals with disabilities don’t understand the world around them but this could not be more wrong. Some people need help navigating some situations, but someone’s feelings should never be assumed. Treating someone as if they have no voice will make them feel their voice isn’t worth hearing.
From wherever in the world you are reading this blog, thank you. Our young people have a voice and it is LOUD! Not everyone listens though, so thank you for reading our words and experiences.
All young adults have the freedom to choose the paths their lives take, travelling and taking part in new experiences will have a positive impact on whatever that path looks like.
Stop letting our young people live in a world of “no’s.” Let them live in a world of possibilities.Bailey Hyder, 2022