Chapter 3 – Planning mixed ability group activities



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.

Table of contents

Chapter 3 – Planning mixed ability group activities

3.1 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 (group agreement) 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. It is generally nice to ask the participants to put an actual symbolic signature on the agreement. Following 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?

Food for thought: Do you remember your first experience with a mixed ability group? What were your expectations and concerns?

3.2 Co-planning and co-creating an inclusive learning environment

In mixed ability group activities, young people with disabilities have different starting levels, different participational and learning needs. This means that to achieve inclusion within such a group, an equitable approach should be followed. For example, while a visually impaired participant may need written materials in Braille printed format, another visually impaired participant may request written materials in digital and readable format and a partially sighted participant may need handouts printed with larger size. Here are three different examples of the possible needs of a disability group of “visual impairment”. While hard-of-hearing participants may need palantypist/text-on-screen support and text handouts, Deaf participants may need sign language interpretation. Don’t forget, assumptions are dangerous because needs are individual! Even within a group of people with the same impairment, individual persons’ access needs vary a lot. When preparing and/or running an activity with a mixed-ability group, it is advisable to pay attention to the participants’ individual access, participation and learning needs rather than emphasise their impairments or health conditions. Organisers should be aware of participants’ access/learning needs and disabilities/health conditions in advance of the activity, having collected this information in a sensitive way beforehand. A participant in a wheelchair may need shorter session times and longer breaks to be able to go and lay down to rest during the day. Sitting for a long time may be too tiring and even harmful for their health. So providing a ramp to the meeting room might not be enough for the meaningful inclusion of the wheelchair user participants.

Young people with disabilities should be seen as the experts and go-to persons when it comes to what kind of support and accessibility arrangements they need. Therefore the facilitators/organisers should share the flow of the programme and directly ask them what kind of support and adaptations they need to become part of the group and be fully included.

When developing a new project or an activity involving a mixed ability group, it is important to remember to create a diverse and inclusive team of youth workers/facilitators/trainers. This is a strategic decision that can lead to learning more about youth work in relation to disability issues making participants with disabilities more comfortable during the activity offering participants positive “role models” to identify with gaining better insights into the various accessibility and educational needs of participants with disabilities.

Food for thought: Imagine other situations where assumption could be risky!

3.3 Guiding tips for better including and engaging young people with disabilities

3.3.1 Deaf and hard of hearing young people

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.
If you prepare an application form for your activity to be filled in by Deaf participants, it’s better to use uncomplicated, clear, simple and short questions. You may also prepare application forms as videos and receive the answers in sign language as well.
A common mistake many people make is to shout louder at Deaf persons when they don’t understand. Instead it’s better to repeat more clearly what you said before (if the Deaf person lip-reads), use other words and gestures or allow time for other ways of communication (writing, etc.)
If the Deaf or hard-of-hearing people can lip-read, it’s better to speak face to face with these persons, keep eye contact, so they can see your lips, pronounce words clearly and articulately but without overdoing it.
It’s better to provide enough time 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, establish a new method of communication like: visual instructions, written questions..etc., because not everybody is processing the information at the same time.
People with hearing impairments need to concentrate on the gestures, expressions and lips of others so well planned sufficient and indirect lighting and distance is necessary. It’s better to make sure the background of the speaker is not distracting.
If you have a group consisting of 10-30 participants, in the big group sessions it’s better to sit/stand in circle shape, therefore everyone can see each other.
Sign language interpreters ideally work in teams of two or three and they must be able to see any sign language users in the room and the users must be able to see them. The active interpreter stands next to the facilitator or the speaker. If you choose to work with a sign language interpreter it’s better to make sure that they are well positioned, you leave enough time for interpreting and possible questions after that. It’s also better to speak in coherent blocks, take a pause and when the signing is finished ask your questions to which participants can react.
It’s always better to speak directly to the person, not the interpreter.
It’s better to ask regularly if the interpreter has enough time and ask pro-actively if the participant has a question or something to add. You could learn the basic sign language for “do you understand?” or “is it clear?” and use this regularly.
Either in small working groups or in the big group circle, during the debates it’s better to facilitate the session in a way that always one participant speaks at a time, they don’t cut each other off and speak one by one after being allowed by the facilitator. In case the participants find it necessary, it is also favorable that the person speaking stands up so that the other participants visually can follow who is currently speaking.
Note that sign language is different in different countries! So Deaf participants from different countries need their own sign language interpreters. In any case sign language is their natural language and a significant element of the Deaf Culture. Therefore it’s better to include games, activities and/or positive messages promoting sign language into your programme. Sincere appreciation of their language and culture motivates them, facilitates their learning process, increases their emotional engagement and sense of belonging.
It’s better to gain Deaf people’s attention before starting to say something – i.e. tapping the person gently on the shoulder or arm, waiting till the person turns to you, making a visible gesture or flashing the lights of the working room.
It’s better to agree with the group on visual ways to start and end a session or activity, e.g. after a break, rounding off working groups – you could switch the lights on & off, use different colour lights, etc. it is important is to keep Deaf people within visual distance, so that it is easier for you to attract their attention, e.g. for rounding off an exercise and for calling them back from small working groups.
It’s better to give active responsibilities to the Deaf participants, however better to let them volunteer for that responsibility rather than delegating without asking, such as leading, moderating a small group work, presenting the group work results,  taking pictures or videos, keeping the meeting room tidy, etc.
With the Deaf, it’s better to write or visualise everything you say (e.g. provide handouts, write on the board or flipcharts,…). Speaking of writing it’s better to keep the written material as simple and clear as possible.
To make yourself understood, it’s better to provide an example, make a demonstration, show a video in sign language or with closed captioning (cc) to clarify (e.g. of energisers, games, expected flipcharts coming from group work)
When having group discussions, it’s better to agree on a sign for the Deaf participants which they can use to indicate they want to contribute. Some Deaf or hard-of-hearing persons have speech disorders which can make it difficult to understand them.
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.
It’s better to either install an ‘induction loop system’ for the benefit of people with hearing aids in the meeting room or search for a meeting room that already has the system installed. With this system the sound is transmitted as a magnetic field, and those with hearing aids designed to receive induction loop sounds can, a bit like a TV aerial.
Hearing aids are the best all-around solution for people with hearing loss, but other assistive listening devices (ALD) can help them navigate specific communication demands. A frequency-modulated (FM) system is an ALD that makes it easier for people with hearing loss to hear what others are saying in noisy environments, like a theatre, school, church, museum or other public places. If your hard of hearing participants require an assistive listening device and it is not possible to have a meeting room with an induction loop system, it’s better to provide an FM system.
Most Deaf and hard of hearing people cannot hear fire alarms. 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 backup communication and visual based sharing system via Facebook groups, SMS, Whatsapp or any other instant messaging system.
Last but not least, as a youth worker, leader, facilitator or trainer, it’s always better to learn sign language and communicate with them by yourself directly. Because even with a quality sign language interpretation, some of the information is lost during the interpretation.
It’s better NOT TO…
It’s better not to presume that one particular way of communication is applicable for all Deaf.
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 to hesitate asking or approaching directly to them in case you need to.
It’s better not to obscure your lip movements with your hands, chewing gum, a cigarette, etc.
It’s better not to interrupt the interpreter while working.
It’s better not to feel embarrassed to ask them to repeat. If you don’t understand them, say so, and revert to alternative ways of communication (writing, sign language with translation). There is always another way.
The Deaf people can party and dance, they can feel the beat (add a bit of extra bass) or dance to the light show based on the music (according to rhythm). It’s better not to avoid using these fun tools in your sessions.

3.3.2 Young people with visual impairments

It’s better TO…
It’s better to find out which assistive equipment or methods they use for communication via application forms or early communication with your participants.
For a partially sighted or blind person, communication in some space can be hard because of no eye contact. It’s better to speak clearly with these persons, be sure they understand that you are speaking with them. Because it can happen that they hear you, but in the chaos 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 it needs some practical adjustment to the activities.
If you have partially/low-sighted participants, it might be useful to ask before the activity whether they would prefer written materials printed in larger size point type or not?
To make yourself understood, it’s better to double check and double explain some aspects and clarify (e.g. energisers, games). It is important to explain once more what will happen so that the people are prepared for what is going on and what will happen.
If you have visually impaired participants in the group, it’s better to prepare your activities not only depending on visual tools. Anyway it’s important to describe properly every time you are using visual tools or materials.
If you need/want to show a video (without audio description), you have to ask someone to sit next to a blind or partially sighted person, to describe the visual part of the video itself.
A personal assistant can be useful but it depends a lot on the individuals. It’s better to ask it in the application form if the participant needs that, but generally, it’s also good to ask and involve the whole group in helping and supporting each other.
When you ask the group to support the others, it’s always better to speak directly to everybody, and give some time to understand which kind of help the participants might need. Anyway it is always better to double check which kind of help is needed and the visually impaired participant would ask for it.
Especially when you explain practical activities, when you describe visual things, it’s better to ask: “do you understand?” or “is it clear?”. Not because a blind is stupid but because there are some particular instructions that a sighted person is much faster to get.
Especially at the beginning of your activity and within a big group of people who don’t know each other, it’s always better that each time a person speaks start speaking by saying his/her name so that a visually impaired participant can easily follow who is speaking and start to get familiar with the voice of the group members.
The welcoming in the venue, a good orientation on the space is very important for participants with visual impairments. It is better if you prepare yourself and dedicate some time to explain exactly where they are, how large is the venue, where the rooms are located in relation with the activity room, where the restaurant and toilets are, how to reach the restaurant from the rooms and/or from the activity room, how to reach the smoking area etc
In case of emergency a blind can have difficulties evacuating 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 also be good to add working documents or digital content that you printed out for the other participants.
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 participant speaks at a time.
When you finish the activities it’s better not to leave chaos in the common areas and re-setup the room as usual so that the “space references” of the blind participants are kept.
It’s better not to violate personal privacy of your participants with visual impairments by touching them without asking their consent even with a good intention and with the purpose of helping.
It’s better not to move or remove their personal stuff without informing your participants with visual impairments. It’s also important not to change the setting of the meeting room without informing them.

3.4 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.

3.5  How to develop or adapt the non formal education tools according to the needs of the group

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 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.

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. 

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)

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.

 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.

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.

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!

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!

3.6. Risk management

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!