pATHS TO INCLUSION
On this page you can find a complete manual on activities for multi-capacity groups. In addition, you can download the complete manual as well as the chapters with the activities in PDF format. Each activity has several adaptations.
Chapter 1. Some Concepts
Concept of Disability
Disability has been defined by a medical approach up until recently. This approach was dominantly based on pity and charity towards people with disabilities, which should be “cured” or “fixed” in order to fit in society. Disability movement has worked actively to overcome this medical model and to spread a notion of disability based on a social approach. While the medical model is based on the persons’ “lack of ability” due to their “impairment”, the social model focuses on “disability” due to surrounding barriers, which are put by society itself. Misconceptions, stigmas and stereotypes about disability as well as inaccessible environments create barriers for people with disabilities from attaining their right to full and equal participation in society.
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) states that “disability is an evolving concept and results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others”. UNCRPD -entered into force on 3 May 2008- also defines “persons with disabilities” as persons including those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others”. Therefore, the notion of “disability” is not fixed and can alter, depending on the prevailing environment from society to society. Disability is not considered as a medical condition, but rather as a result of the interaction between negative attitudes or an unwelcoming environment with the condition of particular persons. Examples of these can be seen everywhere from stairs into buildings, reading materials in inaccessible formats, and prevailing negative attitudes towards persons with disabilities. The more barriers, the less likely persons with disabilities are able to participate in society. By removing attitudinal and environmental barriers – as opposed to treating persons with disabilities as problems to be fixed – those persons can participate as active members of society and enjoy the full range of their rights.
The Convention does not restrict coverage to particular persons; rather, the Convention identifies persons with long-term physical, mental, intellectual and sensory disabilities as beneficiaries under the Convention. The reference to “includes” assures that this need not restrict the application of the Convention and States parties could also ensure protection to others, for example, persons with short-term disabilities or who are perceived to be part of such groups.
People with disabilities are considered the world’s largest minority. WHO (World Health Organization) estimates that over one billion people, about 15% of the world’s population, have some form of disability in the world today. Increasingly vocal and well organised disability movements changed the paradigm from viewing disability as a personal tragedy towards viewing disability as a human rights issue. The work of such disability movements led to a “Nothing about us, without us!” approach to the issue, and to a policy shift from the medical model to the social and human rights based models: from the “patient” to the citizen with the following key principles; inclusion, participation, accessibility, non-discrimination, respect for difference and diversity, equality of opportunities and respect for inherent dignity. Persons with disabilities are part of human diversity and being human has a broad spectrum of possibilities including many ways of walking, seeing, thinking, communicating, interacting, etc. Despite all the differences, persons with and without disabilities are part of the same society and have the same rights and obligations.
Food for thought: What are the human rights of persons with disabilities?
Ableism is the social prejudice against people with disabilities and discrimination based on the belief that typical abilities are superior and disabled people are inferior. It mostly shows itself in the forms of obvious oppressive, abusive behaviours however it does not only refer to consciously discriminatory behaviours but also to the way that people unconsciously relate to people with disabilities. The unconscious part of discriminatory attitudes is much harder to tackle than conscious acts of discrimination, but both need to be equally targeted in the struggle for human rights. For example discriminatory approach in hiring/not hiring people with disabilities is an ableist act but failing to incorporate accessibility into building design plans or talking to a person with a disability like they are a child are also ableist actions.
Some other examples of ableism:
-The assumption that people with disabilities want or need to be ‘fixed’
-Using disability as a punchline, or mocking people with disabilities
-The eugenics movement of the early 1900s
-The mass murder of disabled people in Nazi Germany
-Choosing an inaccessible venue for a meeting or event, therefore excluding some participants
-Framing disability as either tragic or inspirational in news stories, movies, and other popular forms of media
-Using the accessible bathroom stall when being able to use the non-accessible stall without pain or risk of injury
-Questioning if someone is ‘actually’ disabled, or ‘how much’ they are disabled
Food for thought: What other ableist behaviours or attitudes do you recognize?
Types of Disability
Disability types include various impairments that can hamper or reduce a person’s ability to carry out their day-to-day activities. These impairments can be termed as disability of the person to do his/her day-to-day activities. Disability can be broken down into a number of broad sub-categories, which include the following 8 main types of disability:
Disability in mobility can be either an in-born or acquired with age. It could also be the effect of a disease. People who have a broken bone also fall into this category of disability. This category of disability includes people with varying types of physical disabilities, including; upper or lower limb(s) disability, manual dexterity impairment.
Spinal Cord Injuries
This kind of injury mostly occurs due to severe accidents. The injury can be either complete or incomplete. In an incomplete injury, the messages conveyed by the spinal cord are not completely lost. Whereas a complete injury results in a total dysfunctioning of the sensory organs. In some cases, spinal cord disability can be a birth defect.
A disability in the brain occurs due to a head/brain injury. The magnitude of the brain injury can range from mild, moderate and severe. There are two types of brain injuries; Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
Visual impairment is defined as a decreased or totally lost ability to see to a degree that causes problems not fixable by usual means, such as glasses or medication. Visual impairment can be due to disease, trauma, brain and nerve disorders, congenital or degenerative conditions. Terms mostly used to describe people with visual impairments are “partially sighted”, “low vision” and “totally blind”. Eye disorders which can lead to visual impairments can include retinal degeneration, albinism, cataracts, glaucoma, muscular concerns that result in visual disturbances, corneal disorders, diabetic retinopathy, congenital disorders, and infection.
Hearing loss, deafness, hard of hearing or hearing impairment, is defined as a partial or total inability to hear. In children, it may affect the development of language and can cause work related difficulties for adults. Hearing loss is caused by many factors, including genetics, age, exposure to noise, illness, chemicals and physical trauma. People who are partially deaf can often use hearing aids to assist their hearing. Deaf people use sign language as a means of communication.
A speech disorder refers to any condition that affects a person’s ability to produce sounds that create words. Speech disorders affect a person’s ability to form the sounds that allow them to communicate with other people. They are not the same as language disorders. Speech disorders can affect people of all ages. Some types of speech disorder include stuttering, apraxia, and dysarthria.
Learning or intellectual disabilities are defined by diminished cognitive and adaptive development. Some cognitive disabilities have a base in physiological or biological processes within the individual, such as a genetic disorder or a traumatic brain injury. Other cognitive disabilities may be based in the chemistry or structure of the person’s brain. Persons with more profound cognitive disabilities often require assistance with aspects of daily living. Persons with minor learning disabilities might be able to function adequately despite their disability, maybe to the point where their disability is never diagnosed or noticed. (e.g: Down Syndrome, Autism spectrum, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dementia, ADHD)
A psychosocial disability arises when someone with a mental health condition interacts with a social environment that presents barriers to their equality with others. Psychosocial disability may restrict a person’s ability to: be in certain types of environments. concentrate. have enough stamina to complete tasks. Some examples of psychosocial disabilities include: Mood disorders; such as depression and bipolar disorder, schizoid disorders; such as schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, anxiety disorders; such as anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Not all disabilities are visible. An invisible disability is a physical, mental or neurological condition that is not visible from the outside, yet can limit or challenge a person’s movements, senses, or activities. Unfortunately, the very fact that these symptoms are invisible can lead to misunderstandings, false perceptions, and judgments. Invisible disabilities are such symptoms as debilitating fatigue, pain, cognitive dysfunctions and mental disorders, as well as hearing and eyesight impairments and more.
Dwarfism is short stature (abnormal skeletal growth) which can be caused by over 300 genetic or medical conditions. It is generally defined as an adult height of 4 feet 10 inches or less, with the average height of someone with dwarfism being 4 feet (Mayo Clinic). Children with dwarfism may experience a delay in developing motor skills, however, dwarfism does not have a link to any intellectual disability.
Persons who look different
Some people may not be limited in their life activities, but they are treated as if they have a disability because of their appearance. People with facial differences, such as cleft lip or palate, cranio-facial disfigurement, or a skin condition; people who are above or below the average height or weight; people who may display visible effects of medication, such as a tremor—in short, people who look different—have the frequent experience of finding people staring at them, looking away or looking through them as if they are invisible.
Persons with Tourette Syndrome
Persons with Tourette Syndrome may make vocalisations or gestures such as tics that they cannot control. A small percentage of people with Tourette Syndrome involuntarily say ethnic slurs or obscene words.
Cerebral palsy is an impairment that makes it difficult for the person to control their muscles, which has an effect on their movements and sometimes speech (in varying degrees). But this doesn’t mean that they have limited intellectual capacities or a cognitive disability. Therefore, it’s better to start interaction assuming the highest possible level of intellectual skills and simplify if this person with cerebral palsy also has cognitive disability.
Chapter 2. Concept of inclusion
Social inclusion means improving participation for all in society through enhancing opportunities, equal access to resources, having a voice and respect for everybody ́s rights. It requires the distribution of opportunities and resources in a way that minimises disadvantage and marginalisation.
Inclusion is a human right. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognises the right to equality in education and participation of people with disabilities.
-inclusion is about:
encouraging the intercultural encounters to considerer diversity as a richness, not a danger
enabling ALL the youngsters of all backgrounds, especially those more excluded/vulnerable and/or with fewer opportunities:
to have the same opportunity and co-create the framework with respect to all needs and backgrounds, especially with respect to learning/education, and access to youth work and the labor market in general
to be listened, heart and given the safe space to express themselves, as well as taking part in their communities and in decision making processes
to take part in Youth action and have their say and to influence at the end of the day the shaping of the evolving-Europe
to provide access for everyone to empowering resources and processes
taking into account the needs of young people and youth work organisations
and engaging in general all the professional multi-level experiences (educators, youth workers, psychologist, sociologists), volunteers forces and stakeholders involved in the youth policies development, as well as in sustainable development policies in general
So, it is about enlarging the participation of all the youngsters and deepening their participation in terms of reach and impact of the participation process, as well as, to some extent, including all the stakeholders.
Here are a few inclusive glossaries about inclusion and diversity:
Young people with disabilities do not always have an opportunity to take part in youth activities together with their peers without disabilities due to inaccessibility and/or psycho-social barriers. Therefore, a relatively smaller group of active youngsters with disabilities tend to be organised in disability networks or youth branches of DPOs (disabled people’s organisations) where there is always a considerable risk of being part of a closed, disability-based community. On the other hand, some of the youth organisations are running local, national or international “disability themed projects” where young people with disabilities are excluded from interacting with their peers without disabilities. While most of the youth organisations still avoid or hesitate involving young people with disabilities, the ones involving “only” young people with disabilities in their projects are also failing to ensure the inclusiveness of the international learning mobility activities.
SALTO-YOUTH Inclusion defines a mixed-ability group as one that provides “positive experiences of working, playing and simply being together, when breaking down barriers and taking on challenges”. An inclusive mixed-ability group reflects diversity in society. It means creating and maintaining a space where everyone’s needs are met so that all young people, not just those with disabilities, can take part. It is about making sure that all participants have a sense of belonging to the group and that they feel included in the process, respected and valued. This can be achieved by seeing the person as a whole and by embracing diversity, rather than pigeonholing people into “us” and “them”. Another key factor is to ensure that all individuals treat each other with fairness, tolerance and respect. However respect is not enough, action is needed as well.
A mixed-ability approach recognises that all young people have different abilities and may need support so they can be fully involved. A key aspect of inclusiveness is that not everybody has to do the same thing to contribute, it is also fine to do things in different ways to achieve the desired outcomes. Inclusion happens when we are aware of each other’s needs and adapt to the situations we are in. Inclusion is mostly about attitude and willingness rather than expertise on methodology because there is no such thing as a “one solution” for inclusion.
Building an inclusive mixed-ability group requires comprehensive planning and a good deal of preparation. You simply can not call your activity inclusive if you just invite young people with disabilities to join an existing group of young people without disabilities without acknowledging the individual needs of all participants, not only of the ones with disabilities but all. In the following sections of this toolkit we will be providing you with some guidelines to create and manage an inclusive mixed-ability group.
Barriers to participation of young people with disabilities
“And what about young people with disabilities? They are here, somewhere pending between the two movements: the youth and the disability. Searching their place, because none of them are yet inclusive enough. The youth one limits them often with the age limit, because by the time young people with disabilities reach out there, it is time to pass to something else, too old, always asking for derogations to participate and that is embarrassing, annoying and time consuming. And the disability movement? Finds young people too young, not experienced enough, etc.”
-Loredana Dicsi – Membership, Internal Communication and Youth Officer, European Disability Forum
Young people with disabilities can experience a range of barriers to inclusion and can be excluded from important community activities, resources and services that promote decision making, citizenship, leadership and influence. All youth organisations need to consciously and systematically ensure their inclusion strategies the direct provision of services and activities are appropriate for youth with disabilities.
Some of the barriers to participation of young people with disabilities in youth projects:
Lack of information about opportunities
Low self-esteem, and confidence in their own skills and abilities
Lack of family and community support (discouraging approaches)
Having supportive but overprotective families
Lack of information about programme accessibility, or fear of inaccessibility
Limited English language skills
Lack of voice and visibility
Lack of social skills and knowledge of one’s rights to participate
Lack of facilities, access, skills and knowledge related to working with young people with disabilities
Reluctance to work with or for young people with disabilities, since it is considered “challenging”
Fear of the extra efforts and costs; misconception that organizing mixed-ability projects are way too expensive
Lack of projects by and with young people with disabilities – most projects are done for them
Assumptions based on no evidence about the actual potential and capacity of young people with disabilities
Differing visibility of disabilities (“minority within a minority”) – for example, the needs of young people with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities and deaf-blind or hard-of-hearing participants are more easily overlooked.
Ways to better reach out and involve young people with disabilities
In order to organise mixed ability group youth projects it is initially needed to reach out to the target group. Due to the barriers identified in the previous section, this could be the most tricky and challenging part. Because literally no participants with disabilities, no mixed ability groups. Reaching out to the young people with disabilities means using appropriate communication strategies directly addressing them. But making contact with the youngsters is not enough; we need to inform and engage their families as well. In that sense organising an accessible info session could be helpful. Former participants with and without disabilities with positive experiences of inclusive youth activities could be invited to share good practices. Inviting family members of both groups could be helpful to share their concerns or fears regarding their children interacting with each other.
On the other hand, communication materials should address all young people you want to reach. Mentioning in your call for participants that you are openly inviting applications from young people with disabilities can make a big difference, as it opens people’s minds to the fact that these opportunities are theirs to pursue, and their participation is welcome. However do this only if you are ready to adapt the activity according to the needs of these potential participants with disabilities. Do not welcome anyone for the sake of welcoming, be prepared!
Adding clear information on the physical accessibility of the activity venue, the availability of sign language interpreters, information on personal assistants, readable materials, accessible transfer, content and daily programme, details on the application/selection process and deadlines etc. could be very helpful and encouraging to apply. In addition to using mainstream online and offline channels, it’s worth reaching out to places where young people with disabilities study (universities, high schools, life long learning centers..etc.), socialise (community centers, youth centers) and work, self-advocacy groups and disability community organisations etc. Cooperate with relevant partners such as DPOs who already have a relationship with these young people.
It is not always an easy task to fill in an application form and not everybody is good at expressing themselves in written format. Therefore it’s better to adjust the application process, be flexible with deadlines, simplify the questions, avoid long forms, leave spaces for extra comments, actually not only people with disabilities but also everybody could benefit from. Alternative means of application could also be helpful for some people who may have difficulties in explaining things on paper but better express themselves face to face or on a video call (e.g. Deaf youngsters).
It’s also important to formulate the questions accordingly to get adequate information on the disability situation and related needs of the person. That is to say, it is recommended to avoid asking “Do you have any special needs?” but instead you can ask;
“Do you consider yourself to have a disability/difficulty that the organisers should be aware of in order to accommodate the activity for your needs?”
“Will you be accompanied by a personal assistant?”
“Do you require an adapted room?”
“Do you need adapted transport?”
“Do you use a mobility aid such as a wheelchair, walker or cane?”
“Do you need a palantypist or sign language interpretation?”
“Do you use assistive technologies?”
“Do you need alternative materials in a certain format?”
“Do you have any dietary needs?”
How to prepare the participants for a mixed ability group activity?
Preparing young people for the experience of a mixed ability group project is very important, so that their expectations are met. For some young people with disabilities, such as people with anxiety disorders or autism, having an orientation period and clarification of what will happen might be useful and prevent many possible issues from arising. An early and well developed preparation process supports the development of ownership in the project, a sense of belonging and quality of engagement.
In a mixed ability group experience some of the participants will meet their peers whom they may have not been in contact with earlier. Therefore it’s important to prepare them for the topic of disability in youth activities. There can be a lot of insecurities in the room. Young people with disabilities who experience discrimination and exclusion in everyday life may worry that this will also happen during the project. Some young people with disabilities may lack knowledge or understanding of the needs of people with impairments different from their own.
Young people without disabilities on the other hand may be afraid that they are doing something wrong or are fearful of confrontation because of the images of people with disabilities they have in their minds. It may help to think about short getting to know activities before the actual project in national teams that they can do together where they get to know each other, experience new things together, build trust and confidence and slowly adjust to the group setting starting from this small and comfortable group.
It’s also essential to work on right attitudes towards people with disabilities and raise awareness of exclusive and discriminatory behaviours before the project.
It is very helpful for the group to set ground rules they discuss and agree on, based on mutual respect. These rules should not necessarily be disability related, on the contrary they should cover the needs and sensitivities of all. Make it visible that, as the facilitators or the organisers, you are also signatory of these ground rules decided. These guiding questions might help to start the discussions and set the common rules;
-What do you need to feel comfortable in this group?
-What situations would you like to avoid?
-What do you expect others to be respectful of?
Tips for better including and engaging yp with different abilities (the Deaf yp)
Deaf and hard of hearing youth
There are a wide variety of hearing disabilities, ranging from people that can hear when they use assistive equipment (hearing aids, cochlear implants..etc), to people who do not hear anything. People that were deaf at birth have learned to communicate in visual ways (e.g. sign language has its own grammar, lexicon and idioms). Speaking or writing a verbal (foreign) language is often a second or third language for them. Some Deaf or hard-of-hearing people can lip-read and some use sign language. There are a number of Deaf people who have a speech impairment but others speak fluently. Deaf does not mean mute and mute does not mean Deaf.
So basically it’s better not to presume that one particular way of communication is applicable for all Deaf.
Guiding tips for the youth workers, facilitators, trainers, youth leaders to be used while working with Deaf and hard of hearing young people:
Tips for better including and engaging yp with different abilities (the blind yp)
It’s better TO…
It’s better to find out what assistive equipment or methods they use for communication via application forms or early communication with your participants.
For a partially sighted or blind person, the communication in some space can be hard because of no eye contacts, it’s better to speak clearly with these persons, be sure they get that you are speaking with them, because it can happen that they hear you, but in the caos they didn’t get you are speaking with them.
It’s better to provide enough time, sometimes more than usual for each activity, task or the assignment and make sure everything is clearly understood by everyone before starting. In case of need, it’s always better to repeat the clarifications, and double check with the participants if everything is clear and if is need it some practical adjustment to the activities.
To make yourself understood, it’s better to double check and double explain some aspect and clarify e.g. of energisers, games… It is important to explain one more what will happen so that the people are prepared of what is going on.
If you have visually impaired persons in the groups, it’s better to prepare the activities using less visual tools as possible. Anyway it’s important and it’s better to describe properly every time are you using visual tool or supports.
If you need/want to show a video, you have to ask, to someone to sit next to a blind or partially sighted person, to describe the visual part of the video it self.
An assistant person can be useful but it depends a lot on the participants, it’s better to check it in the application form if the young need it, but generally, it’s always better to ask and involve the whole group in helping other participants.
When you ask the group to help the others It’s always better to speak directly to everybody, and give some time to understand which kind of help needs the participants. Anyway is always better to double check which kind of help need and like to have the visually impaired participant.
Especially when you explain practical activities, when you describe visual thighs or you take as example the space of the room It’s better to ask: “do you understand?” or “is it clear?”. Not because a blind is stupid but because there are some instruction that for a sighted person are much more fast to get.
Especially at the beginning and for the big group of person who doesn’t know eachothers It’s always better that the person speaking says his/her name before speaking so that a Visually impaired can easily understand who is speaking and start to get familiar with the voice of the group members.
During plenary activities when the participants are speaking to the group it’s better that the person speaking says his/her name before speaking so that a Visually impaired can easily understand who is speaking.
The wellcome in the venue, a good orientation on the space is very important, is better if you prepare yourself and dedicate some time, because you have to, to explain exactly where they are, how is made the venue, where are the rooms in relation with the activitiy room, where is the canteen, how to reach the canteen from the rooms and/or from the activity room, how to reach the smoking area ecc….
In case of emergency a blind can have difficulties to evacuate the building alone. It’s better to make sure you know exactly where they are located in the building in case of emergency and what to do. You could also make an emergency division of tasks for all participants.
It’s better to create a communication and sharing system via Facebook groups, SMS, Whatsapp or any other instant messaging system. Will be also a good place where to add working document or digital content that you printed out for the others participants.
It’s better to create a fair, diverse, equal, respectful, open-minded, positive, constructive and collaborative -instead of competitive- learning atmosphere by making learning a meaningful, pleasant journey shared with their peers.
Last but not least, as a youth worker, leader, facilitator or trainer, it’s always better to learn about common needs of visually impaired persons, what to do or not to do..
It’s better NOT TO…
It’s better not to use abstract concepts while preparing your activity or training content.
In order to avoid misunderstandings it’s better not to speak too fast and not give space information like over there, here etc… or use personal pronouns like He She Them….
Either in small working groups or in the big group circle, during the debates it’s better not to leave that the group speak one over the others, and facilitate the session in a way that always one participants speaks at a time.
When you finish the activities it’s better not to leave chaos on the common areas and re-setup the room as usual so that the “space references” of the blind participants are kept.
Tips for the facilitators/trainers/youth workers, focusing on YW with special needs (including psycho-social preparation)
Youth workers have the responsibility of providing guidance and support to young people. Youth with special needs have unique needs that require particular attention and care. In order to effectively work with them, it is critical for youth workers to understand the complexities of their needs and have the skills necessary to support them. This part provides tips for youth workers to consider when working with youth with special needs, including psycho-social preparation.
1. Understand the Needs of Youth with Special Needs
It is important for youth workers to understand the needs of youth with special needs. This includes recognizing the various types of special needs and being aware of the challenges these youth face. It is important to familiarize yourself with the specific needs of individual youth, as well as the resources available to support them. Understanding the specific needs of the youth and the resources available will help you better tailor approaches and activities to meet their individual needs.
Questions you can ask yourself are:
· What types of physical and or mental disabilities do these youth have?
· What are the psychological, social, and emotional needs of these youth?
· What type of support do the youth need in order to be successful in their home, school, and community?
· What type of environment is best suited for the youth’s individual needs?
· What types of therapies, treatments, or interventions are needed to ensure the youth’s health and well-being?
· How can I create a safe and supportive atmosphere for them?
· What types of activities can I provide that will help youth to develop their skills and abilities?
· Are there any special accommodations or modifications that need to be made to help the youth succeed?
· What type of resources, supports, or services are available for these youth?
· Don’t invent the wheel again. Look around, listen, talk to people/connections you know that work with them!
· What strategies can be used to promote positive behaviour and reduce challenging behaviours?
2. Create a Positive and Inclusive Environment
It is essential to create an environment that is both positive and inclusive. This includes recognizing the unique strengths and abilities of youth with special needs and providing support for them to reach their full potential. It is also important to be aware of the challenges these youth face and provide the necessary resources and services to address them. Additionally, youth workers should strive to create an environment that is free from stigma and discrimination.
Questions you can ask yourself are:
· What can I do to make sure everyone feels accepted and respected in this group?
· How can I create a safe, welcoming space for all members of the group?
· What strategies can I use to ensure that everyone has a voice and feels heard?
· How can I ensure that all members of the group are given opportunities to participate?
· What are some ways I can ensure that everyone feels included and valued in the group?
· How can I create an environment that encourages and celebrates diversity?
· What can I do to ensure everyone’s needs are taken into account?
· How can I foster an environment of understanding and empathy?
3. Develop Appropriate Support Strategies
Which kind of questions can you ask yourself how to Develop Appropriate Support Strategies in working with youth with special needs?
Youth workers should strive to develop appropriate support strategies to meet the individual needs of youth with special needs. This includes understanding how to best communicate with these youth and providing appropriate guidance and support. Additionally, youth workers should be aware of the available resources and be able to provide appropriate referrals.
Questions you can ask yourself are:
· What strategies can I use to help the youth with special needs develop their skills and abilities?
· How can I best support youth with special needs while they adjust to their new environment?
· What methods can I use to ensure that the youth with special needs feel comfortable and safe in the setting?
· How can I best incorporate positive reinforcement into my support strategies?
· How can I best communicate with the youth with special needs to ensure understanding?
· How can I best support the youth with special needs in making decisions that are in their best interests?
· What strategies can I use to help the youth with special needs develop their self-confidence?
· How can I best ensure that the youth with special needs receive the appropriate services and support they require?
· How can I best support the youth with special needs in developing their social skills?
· What strategies can I use to help the youth with special needs develop their problem-solving skills?
Examples of appropriate strategies could be :
· Develop positive relationships with the youth and their family.
· Encourage independence and self-advocacy.
· Offer clear and concise expectations.
· Provide frequent positive reinforcement.
· Use visuals to explain tasks and expectations.
· Break tasks into smaller, achievable steps.
· Connect the youth with community resources.
4. Ensure Psycho-Social Preparation
Youth workers should ensure that youth with special needs have adequate psycho-social preparation when engaging in activities. This includes helping the youth develop appropriate social skills and self-management strategies. It is also important to ensure that the youth are provided with adequate support and resources to ensure their safety and well-being. Additionally, youth workers should strive to create an environment that is both supportive and empowering.
Ways to support this are:
· Establish reasonable expectations for all youth. Make sure to be flexible with those expectations based on individual needs.
· Provide an environment that is both physical and emotionally safe for all youth. Ensure that all youth feel supported and respected.
· Utilise positive reinforcement and provide immediate feedback for both successes and challenges.
· Establish open lines of communication between you, staff and the youth taht is participating (and parents to if needed).
· Connect youth to appropriate resources and support systems that can help them succeed.
· Provide positive role models and mentors who can help youth learn and grow.
· Allow youth to make their own decisions and decisions that are in their best interests.
· Foster a culture of acceptance, understanding, and respect for all youth.
· Encourage youth to take risks and make mistakes in a safe and supportive environment.
· Celebrate the successes of all youth and recognize the accomplishments of each individual.
Tips how to take psycho-social preparation into account when you set up activities with young people with special needs are:
· Establish trust and build rapport. Create an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding by engaging in active listening and offering affirmative responses.
· Respect the individual’s personal boundaries, preferences, and individual pace.
· Provide clear expectations and structure to the activity, including a plan for positive reinforcement and consequences for inappropriate behaviour.
· Adjust activities to the individual’s abilities and provide guidance and support throughout the activity.
· Offer a variety of activities, including physical, creative, and cognitive-based activities, to foster social and emotional development.
· Utilise strategies to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation, such as mindfulness activities and deep breathing techniques.
· Encourage positive communication and social interactions.
· Foster independence by gradually introducing more challenges and opportunities for self-advocacy.
· Provide guidance on how to handle emotions and problem-solving.
· Monitor the individual’s physical and emotional well-being and provide support as needed.
5. Foster Independence and Self-Advocacy
Youth workers should strive to foster independence and self-advocacy in youth with special needs. This includes providing opportunities for them to develop and practise their skills, as well as encouraging them to take ownership of their own decisions. Additionally, youth workers should provide guidance and support to help the youth understand their rights and responsibilities.
Following these tips, youth workers can better serve youth with special needs. It is important to recognize the complexity of the needs and develop strategies to address them. Additionally, youth workers should strive to create a positive and inclusive environment and ensure adequate psycho-social preparation. Lastly, youth workers should strive to foster independence and self-advocacy in youth with special needs. By following these tips, youth workers can better serve the individual needs of this population.
Adapting or developing games and exercises for youth with special needs! (This part I revised & shortened below according to the session we did in San Felice)
How to adapt or develop methods for mixed ability groups
As a youth worker what we always do is to adapt our methods to new contexts, timeframes, durations, learning spaces, different group profiles, group needs and changing situations all the time. We need to be creative and be prepared for a lot of unexpected situations when working with youth groups. We generally add or change small elements in the method to work more efficiently with the specific group. The approach is the same for developing inclusive methods. We still can keep using our favourite games and exercises with mixed ability groups only taking into account that we may require more creativity, adaptability and simplifications. Here we have compiled some practical tips and tricks for when you need to adapt existing games/exercises or when you want to develop a new game for your mixed ability group of young people. As a note these tips are not specifically beneficial for mixed ability groups but could be useful for all group activities.
1. Be aware of disabilities but focus on diverse senses & abilities within the group
Adapting a game for mixed ability groups requires thinking about methods that appeal to different senses and abilities. Some people may be more visual learners, while others may be more auditory learners. Additionally, some people may need to be able to touch or manipulate objects in order to learn or play. Know your group well, learn as much as possible the capabilities and limitations of your participants before the activity. Don’t stick with the inabilities Tailoring methods in a way that allows young people with disabilities to recognize their strengths and abilities, boosts self-confidence and self appreciation rather than limitations. Additionally, it helps to increase motivation and engagement, and can lead to better outcomes.
2. Don’t leave anyone behind/out!
In mixed ability group settings it is crucial not to leave anyone behind or out because everyone should have the opportunity to participate and have fun. Everyone should be included and respected regardless of their disabilities, and games can be adapted to ensure that everyone can join in and have a good time. Leaving someone out would be unfair and would not create a safe and welcoming environment for all.
3. There are multiple ways to achieve a goal, offer diverse possibilities
Offering multiple ways to achieve a goal in a game is beneficial for a variety of reasons. First, it allows all participants to have a more personalised experience, as they can choose which approach works best for them. This can lead to a greater sense of engagement and satisfaction, as they feel they have greater control over the game. Second, in inclusive settings everybody doesn’t have to do things in the same way. By offering diverse possibilities (e.g. writing, drawing, singing), young people can reach specific goals in ways most appropriate for themselves. Being able to choose independently how you want to reach the goal has an empowering force. If diverse activities are offered, consider giving the space to try them out instead of explaining them. This is necessary because not everybody can visualise activities. By trying them out, young people get a better impression of the activity and the rules.
4. Offer activities in smaller & bigger groups
There are many benefits to offering activities and games to youth with disabilities in both small and larger groups. Firstly, activities and games can help to foster a sense of community and belonging among the youth, which is especially important for those with disabilities who may feel isolated or misunderstood. In larger groups, youth with special needs may be exposed to different ideas and perspectives, as well as socialise with peers who have similar experiences.
Smaller groups on the other hand can provide a more intimate and supportive setting where youth may feel more comfortable participating, while larger groups can provide more opportunities for youth to practise communication and collaboration skills.
5. Keep instructions simple, give space to try!
Ensure that the rules of the game you selected are not complicated to play but also to explain and make sure they are clearly communicated to all participants prior to the start of the game.When introducing a new exercise or game, it is important to introduce it slowly and gradually increase the speed. This will give the group time to become familiar with the activity and understand the rules better. In any case ask yourself whether the explanation of the rules need to be simplified? If you require, use supporting visual aids to clarify the concept of the game. Don’t start the game without all participants confirmed they understood the purpose and the rules of the game. You can also have a practice run of the game. This helps you check if everybody is on the same page about how the game is played. If the activity is complex, break it down into smaller, simpler steps. Allow each step to be practised at a slower pace before increasing the tempo. If necessary, repeat the instructions step by step till everybody understands the game. Don’t be afraid to ask for some peers of the group to help you out in explaining the game.
6. Change the rules if needed. BUT maintain the integrity of the tasks!
Some modifications might be necessary while adapting the games if you think some participants may not be able to participate. However, maintaining the integrity of the tasks in a game is very important because it allows everybody in the group to have an equal chance at achieving their goals. It also ensures that the game is fair and that players are not taking advantage of any loopholes or exploits. If the rules of a game are changed too obviously, and rules are made too easy, it can create an imbalance in the game and lead to frustration among participants. Additionally, it can create an environment of distrust, as participants with disabilities may feel that they are not seen equal as their peers. Making games too easy can also lead to boredom and disinterest in the activity. It can also prevent youth with disabilities from challenging themselves, which can be an important part of developing their skills and confidence. Additionally, games that are too easy can limit social interaction between the person and others, which can be a valuable part of the activity.
7. Don’t rely only and too much on the personal assistants
Depending on the type of disability and the specific condition of the person, personal assistants are providing support to the people with disabilities in their daily life activities. There might be trained professional assistants within your group or young people with disabilities might bring their family members or friends as their personal assistants to the activity. So relying too heavily on them may not be the best choice. It’s more convenient not to transfer all the responsibility of the tasks on to the assistants, instead try to adapt methodologies so that the young person with a disability can be involved as independently as possible.
8. Safety first!
Under all circumstances, the safety of all your participants is always the priority! This might include ensuring that the game does not involve any dangerous physical contact or risky equipment. Adjust the methods in a way that there’s no risk of anyone getting hurt during a game. In order to avoid the risks, try to simulate the game before you apply, double check the safety conditions considering the profile of your group.
9. Change the space and setting for variety and stimulation
Think about where you are playing the game or doing the activity. Do you need more space? Do pax all need to be sat on chairs or can the use of the space be more varied? By changing the environment, you can modify a game towards a new cool activity (e.g. instead of playing the game in the meeting room, move the group to the garden or a seaside close by and do the activity there)
10. Don’t make it too fast or too slow
Everybody in a mixed ability group has a different pace of doing things. Different paces may create frustrations within the group if it is not managed well. Some participants may finish quickly while some others still continue. You should prevent the misconception of “fast is better”. Being aware of this may help you find an optimum rhythm by observing them over a few sessions.
11. Equipment – Don’t push everybody to use the same materials. Provide options.
Can you change the equipment or the materials used in an activity? You can use bigger targets, soft balls or equipment that makes a noise. In some particular situations if a participant needs different equipment for a craft or activity due to his/her disability, it may make him/her feel less self-conscious if all the others are given this equipment rather than singling him/her out. It’s better considering the young person’s physical and cognitive abilities when selecting the right equipment. If you are not sure, don’t hesitate to consult with professionals (e.g. physical, occupational and speech therapists) to get their advice on the best equipment for the individual. If the equipment needed is expensive, check out resources and available funding to cover the cost of the equipment.
12. Involve them in decision making
To ensure that young people are involved in the development of a new game or adaptation of an existing one, it is important to create an open dialogue between you and the youth which you’re going to play with. This could include surveys, focus groups, and other forms of direct feedback. By involving young people in the decision-making process, you and your team can ensure that the final product is tailored to their preferences and expectations.
13. Don’t forget about the needs of participants without disabilities.
One reason why this may be happening is because the focus tends to be on making the game accessible for those with disabilities. This can often mean that the attention paid to those without disabilities is not as great as it could/should be. However, organizing mixed ability group activities does not mean only taking the needs of the ones with disabilities into account, but the needs of all. Either with a disability or not every young person has their own participational needs. Additionally, when adapting a game to include young people with disabilities, sometimes it can be difficult to balance the game so that everyone has an enjoyable experience. This can sometimes mean that the game is not as enjoyable for those without disabilities. The game should be inclusive but still fun and enjoyable for everyone. Don’t forget this!
14. Always keep in your mind that it’s just an exercise/game. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
When adapting a game, we should do our best as much as possible. But that doesn’t guarantee that it will be fully inclusive for everybody. Failing is quite ok. When something does not go well or any mistake happens, sit down and ask the group for their feedback on how they experience the game and how they would modify the game from their own perspectives. Use this new knowledge to adjust for the future and try again! Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Failure is natural and part of the learning process. Trust the process!
When setting up activities with mixed groups of young people and those with special needs, risk management is an important consideration. It is important to ensure that all participants are safe and that any potential risks are identified and managed appropriately.
The first step in managing risk is to identify the specific types of participants who will be taking part in the activity. This includes considering the age, physical and cognitive abilities, and any medical or mental health issues which may come into play. It is also important to consider the type of activity that you are setting up, as well as the potential hazards which might be present.
Once the potential risks have been identified, it is important to create a plan to reduce or eliminate them. This might include providing appropriate supervision, setting clear expectations and rules, and providing any necessary equipment or medical supplies. It is also important to ensure that all participants are aware of any risks and are prepared to follow any safety protocols that have been put in place.
The next step is to create a plan to respond to potential risks should they occur. This includes having a clear plan of action for any emergency situations, as well as ensuring that all participants are aware of the necessary safety protocols and know who to contact in the event of an emergency.
Finally, it is important to monitor the activity and make any necessary adjustments to ensure that the risk management plan is effective. This includes regularly assessing the activity and making any necessary changes or adjustments based on the feedback of the participants.
Risk management is an important consideration when setting up activities with mixed groups of young people and those with special needs. By taking the necessary steps to identify, reduce, and respond to potential risks, we can ensure that all participants are safe and that the activity is a positive experience for everyone involved.
Step 1 : Identify the specific types of participants who will be taking part in the activity.
When setting up activities with mixed groups between young people and youth with special needs, it is important to identify the specific types of participants who will be taking part in the activity. Not only will this help ensure that everyone is comfortable and their needs are met, but it will also help make the activity run as smoothly and effectively as possible. There are several key considerations to take into account when identifying the types of participants in a mixed group activity.
First, it is important to consider the overall goals of the activity. Where do you want to focus on with your activity? Is the goal to foster collaboration and teamwork? Or is the goal to create an enjoyable and safe environment? It could be that depending on the goals of your activity, different types of participants may be joined or needed. For example, if the goal is to foster collaboration and teamwork, participants who are capable of working together in a positive manner should be selected. If the goal is to create an enjoyable and safe environment, participants who are able to understand and respect each other’s boundaries should be chosen. And this despite their special needs that are present within the group.
Second, it is important to consider the abilities and needs of the participants. Are there any special needs, physical or mental, that must be taken into account? It is important to ensure that all participants are capable of participating in the activity and that their needs are met. If there are any participants with special needs (that you know before the start), it is important to identify their needs and make sure that a support system is in place to ensure their safety and well-being.
Third, it is sometimes important to consider the ages of the participants. Are there any age restrictions or requirements for the activity? If so, it is important to choose/select participants who fall within the specified age range. It is also important to consider the maturity level of the participants in some cases. If the activity is intended for younger participants, it is important to choose/select participants who are able to handle the activity responsibly and respectfully.
Finally, it is also important to consider the cultural backgrounds of the participants. Are there any cultural considerations that must be taken into account? Especially when you would like to set up mixed activities with a multicultural group. It is important to ensure that all participants feel comfortable and respected and that the activity is not offensive or insensitive to any of the participants.
Step 2 : Create a plan to reduce or eliminate potential risks that are identified.
Having activities that involve both young people and young people with special needs can be a great way to foster inclusion and acceptance. However, it’s important to be aware of any potential risks that could arise from your activity. By creating a plan to reduce or eliminate any identified risks, you can ensure that everyone involved in the activity is safe and that the activity runs as smoothly as possible.
1. Identify Potential Risks: Before you can create a plan to reduce or eliminate any potential risks, you need to identify them. This involves taking into account both the physical environment of the activity and the people involved. Think about any potential hazards that could arise in the environment, such as stairs or slippery floors, and any potential risks to the participants, such as bullying or physical injury.
2. Consider the Needs of All Involved: When creating a plan to reduce or eliminate potential risks, it’s important to consider the needs of everyone involved in the activity. This includes any special requirements that those with special needs may have. Think about how you can best accommodate their needs and ensure everyone’s safety.
3. Create a Risk Assessment: Once you’ve identified potential risks, create a risk assessment to determine how to reduce or eliminate them. This should include a detailed plan for dealing with any potential risks, as well as how to respond if something does occur.
4. Develop an Emergency Plan: In addition to the risk assessment, create an emergency plan in case something does happen. This should include a list of people who can be contacted in the event of an emergency and a plan for how to respond appropriately. Collect the necessary telephone numbers of the nearest emergency unit, hospital, doctors in case of.
5. Provide Training and Support: Finally, provide training and support for all involved. This should include teaching those with special needs any necessary safety protocols and providing them with any resources they may need to participate in the activity.
Step 3 : Create a plan to respond to potential risks when they occur.
Creating a plan to respond to potential risks when working with mixed groups of young people and those with special needs is an important step in ensuring the safety and success of the project. When working with this type of group, there are a few factors to consider when preparing the plan.
1. Assess the Risks: It is important to assess the potential risks that can arise when working with a mixed group. Identify what activities will take place, who will be present, and how the risks can be managed. This will help determine the necessary steps to take to minimise any potential risks.
2. Establish Guidelines: Establish clear guidelines for behaviour and communication with the group. This can include setting expectations for language, presenting boundaries, and discussing appropriate topics. Having these guidelines in place will ensure everyone is on the same page.
3. Create Safety Protocols: Develop safety protocols for any activity that the group will be participating in. This may include having a designated person to monitor the group, having a plan to respond in case of an emergency, and having a plan for how to handle any potential conflicts that may arise.
4. Provide Training: Provide training to all participants on how to handle situations that may arise. This can include how to respond to potential risks, how to recognize warning signs, and how to address any conflicts that may arise.
5. Monitor the Group: It is important to monitor the group during activities to ensure that everyone is behaving appropriately, that people feel safe and that any potential risks are being addressed.
6. Plan for the Unexpected: Prepare for the unexpected by having a backup plan in case of any situation that may arise. This could include having contact information for all participants, having a plan for how to respond to any emergency, and having a plan for how to handle any potential conflicts.
Step 4 : Monitor the activity and make any necessary adjustments to ensure that the risk management plan is effective.
Keep your eyes open during the activity. Whenever you face an emergency, and you handle it accordingly, take time afterwards to learn from your mistakes. Maybe you need to adjust your emergency plan? Write down the changes, and take them with you the next time you organise a similar activity!
You can be sure that you will be better prepared than ever before!
Tools and Possible Adaptations
Getting to know games
Getting-to-know games or introduction games help participants begin conversation, become more acquainted with each other, their names, interests, experiences, memories, and so on. They help participants to be more alert and active. Besides they help facilitators to create a positive and interactive learning environment, the results are often humorous, interesting and fascinating.
Whether it’s due to an early morning start or after a carb-loaded lunch, it’s natural for a group to lose steam and for the brain to feel overworked and bored. Energizers are short activities that last between 5-15 minutes that increase the energy level of a group and help the brain access its imaginative side. Depending on the activity programme, it makes sense to plan for an energising activity to start, another after the group returns from any breaks including lunch break, and perhaps a final activity to end on a high note. Additionally, it will be useful to plan a few “back-up” energizers in case the participants may need it at any point. Always better to keep in mind the comfort zone and cultural sensitivities of the group to be sure the energizer won’t make anyone uncomfortable.
Team building games are constructive and fun ways to help a group of people to know each other, build trust, communicate comfortably, develop relationships and most importantly, learn to work together to accomplish a goal. Besides team building activities also help participants develop their communication, creativity, motivation, sense of belonging, loyalty, leadership and problem-solving skills. They aim to evoke the best from each participant because combining fun with learning is one of the most effective ways to improve performance, break down barriers, and tap into hidden potential.
Small Group Work
Group works are essential to involve participants in their own learning, to make the discussed topics come alive, to deepen learners’ knowledge about a topic, increase the interaction between the participants and to develop particular skills. Working in small groups gives the young people a chance to practice the higher-order thinking skills and they generally learn more of the material and retain their knowledge longer. The participants who are not comfortable expressing their opinions in the big group are generally more comfortably and actively participating in the small group discussions. There are several funny games to make small groups. If there is not much time to play a game to make groups the facilitator can use the counting method to divide the group into smaller groups either using the numbers or some other characteristics such as colours, countries, seasons, days, cartoon characters or superheroes.
Role play involves participants taking on the role of a character different from themselves and helps participants stepping into roles that creates a space for them to take on multiple perspectives outside of their own. It is important to consider a participant’s prior knowledge before doing role work. They need to have enough information about the role you are asking them to play or create their own roles with deciding the characteristics of the role in order for rigorous learning to occur during role play or the drama activity. Often an active discussion is better as a starter or game as a metaphor to help participants begin to think about the topic and explore/express their own ideas about it.
Outdoor exercises are a great way for youth workers to engage young people in activities that promote physical, mental, and social wellbeing. Outdoor exercise can take many forms, from nature walks and scavenger hunts to outdoor sports and cooperative games. Outdoor exercise can provide a great way to get young people up and moving, while also providing an opportunity for youth workers to connect with their charges on a deeper level. Outdoor activities can also be used to teach young people important life skills such as problem-solving, communication, and teamwork.