Despite an increasingly inclusive society, it’s sadly still the case that people with disabilities can often find themselves restricted when it comes to enjoying many experiences and activities that others may take for granted.

From exploring nature to creating artworks there can certainly be a variety of obstacles to come up against so here at Strode Park Foundation we know the importance in creating an accessible programme of activities and entertainment for our residents and service users.

Over the past few weeks, our residents and service users have been taking part in a wide range of activities, both on and off-site. These have included shows provided by local musicians, singers and actors, visits from a menagerie of animals, birds, reptiles and insects, craft and flower arranging sessions, music and sound therapy workshops and also trips out to a local waterway for sailing.

Not just a way in which one can pass the time, the value of such activities can certainly not be underestimated and have been proven to be an extremely important part of personal development.

Craft activities, especially when undertaken as part of a group, can help people with disabilities to develop their social skills as they can promote better understanding and tend to improve tolerance. These activities can give a real sense of personal accomplishment and purpose, aid in increasing dexterity and are also vital in enabling expression of feelings that cannot necessarily be verbalised.

Music can be a wonderfully social activity and involves communication, listening and sharing. The majority of people regardless of disability can participate in music even if they experience difficulties in other areas. Music is also an effective way to stimulate and focus a person’s attention, providing a path for nonverbal communication whilst rhythm can stimulate and organise a person’s muscle responses thus helping those with neuromuscular disorders. As Mark, who provides sound therapy sessions at Strode Park House, says: ‘Sound is connected to all life so it benefits our clients for relaxation, to be free from pain and for stress-related issues. It also offers a beautiful spiritual connection.’

Evidence from research has demonstrated that being able to engage with nature brings substantial mental and physical health benefits, especially to those people who are often excluded from contact with nature due to disability. A multisensory experiential approach to learning about nature can help to transfer new skills and knowledge and strengthen emotional connections with the natural world. This leads to a positive effect on motivation and the desire to maintain these connections.

Last month our Day Opportunities service got to experience this first hand by taking part in an initiative run by the Wildlife Trust called ’30 Days Wild’. As one of the activities, a ‘Grow Your Own Butterflies’ kit was purchased and clients and staff had a lovely and informative few weeks watching the process of evolution from caterpillar to butterfly. The sailing sessions that our service users have been recently taking part in have also been particularly beneficial as our Day Opportunities Team Leader, Jan Ralph, confirms: ‘It’s completely exhilarating for our service users and is the perfect sport for them to feel tranquillity and freedom on the water. It also makes them feel active and involved and that is the reason we have given them this opportunity. Everyone loves it.’

We have also been able to work with local community groups on a variety of activities which have been mutually beneficial for all involved. In particular, recent craft sessions with the local infant school and an inclusive dance workshop with the students at the local high school have been a real success as they have really broken down any misconceptions that the children may have had about disability.

With the activities programme continuing to be a full and varied one over the next few weeks, we are all very much looking forward to the exciting new opportunities and experiences that this will bring.

(Written by Christina Jones, Fundraiser at Strode Park Foundation)