Autonomie supports disabled young people in Belfast and surrounding areas using technology during coronavirus pandemic
Under normal circumstances the Belfast-based youth disability charity helps disabled youngsters with self-confidence and life skills in Belfast and surrounding areas.
Now, with social distancing regulations in effect, Autonomie has been running virtual exercise and cookery sessions, check-in-and-catch-up video calls and Makaton sign of the week.
Some young people have even been taking part in a weekly task such as preparing a healthy meal and with a prize for the young person who completes the most tasks during lockdown, many have got involved.
Autonomie Chief Officer Lynne Morrison said: “As a youth disability charity we recognise that vulnerable young people with additional needs and their families in Belfast and surrounding areas will need our services now more than ever so it was vital that we changed the way we worked to support our service users.
“Our volunteers and staff have worked extremely hard to digitally transform our services to ensure our community is supported at this incredibly difficult time.
“Government guidelines mean we aren’t able to deliver group activities. overnight stays, or counselling at the moment, so we are using video, telephone calls, message apps and social media to reach young people and their parents."
The charity has also been using digital technology to deliver live singalongs, family quizzes and arts & crafts.
Parents can access a free and confidential telephone counselling service, a support helpline and the charity regularly shares information and resources across its social media platforms.
Ms Morrison continues: “We'd like to reassure young people and parents who use our services that we are committed to continuing to provide the best quality support, interventions and signposting to support good mental health during the coronavirus outbreak.
“I’m delighted to see so many of our young people are involved. Being able to provide these young people with structured opportunities to chat with their peers, take part in video app quizzes as well as take part in the weekly task has really made a difference by reducing levels of isolation.
“Young people are still able to continue to learn new and develop existing life skills by taking part in the weekly task at home which they would normally develop during group activities at our centre Lilac House.
“The weekly task has proven a real boost for their self confidence and wellbeing. There’s a real sense of achievement.
“I’m so proud too of our volunteers and staff. Not only have they modified and digitised programmes, they have continued to invest in their learning and professional development by completing online courses such as suicide awareness whilst working from home.”
Weekly tasks the young people have already completed include making a healthy meal, doing an exercise activity and even cleaning the door handles in their homes to help keep them and their family safe.
Young person Stephanie Hewitt who takes part in Autonomie’s online programmes said: “Autonomie is so much fun. I miss going to Lilac House and not being able to go to places with Autonomie but I get to chat to everyone on video every week.
“I love singing and we created a video singalong which was so much fun.
“I’ve been taking part in the weekly task challenge and I hope I win.”
The charity will be launching more initiatives to support disabled young people and their families over the coming months.
For more information about Autonomie you can visit http://www.autonomie.org.uk