At the beginning of April, we were given the opportunity of helping out at the family holiday club at Dalesdown, a Christian centre set in the beautiful surroundings of the West Sussex countryside. The holiday club is organised each year by the Christian charity 'Through the Roof', for families who have children with autism. The programme is full of activities including craft, adventure trails and our Act 4 praise parties.
Since neither of us have had much experience in working with children or young adults on the autistic spectrum, we were both a little apprehensive and a bit concerned as to how much help we would be able to give throughout our time at Dalesdown. However, thanks to a Training Day in March, where we were able to meet other helpers and spend much time talking and thinking about the holiday club ahead of us, all our worries were blown away.
Our roles during the week included leading the Praise Parties for everyone. The first theme we had chosen for Tuesday was 'Stepping Up', followed by a session about Jesus' 'Calming of the Storm' on Wednesday. Continuing the 'tradition' of holding a Talent Show for the last night of the week, the children had the opportunity to share their skills and talents with everyone. The results were more than impressive and we had a great evening singing, dancing and praying.
As we were not one-to-one-helpers, who care for one child in particular, we had the opportunity to get to know all of the children a little bit, for example during craft activities or when we took over from the one-to-one-helpers for a few minutes. The boys and girls were truly inspiring and it was great to have an insight into their lives and see the world.
Overall, both of us felt blessed and rewarded for the time we spent at Dalesdown and the many things we learnt from this experience. For instance, that one cannot simply speak of 'autistic children', since every child is unique in his or her very own way, and, therefore, has unique skills and ways of giving joy and happiness to their families and other people around them, including us.
by Anna & Rabea