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AutismBC Highlights: Recreational Respite

Jan 21st, 2022

More than 15% of our total yearly information requests are inquiries about support services and social connections. For that reason, we aim to connect our members to services that bring the autism community together. AutismBC Highlights promotes services and programs that are available in British Columbia. Our Program Ambassador, Jake Anthony, sat down with Groups Coordinator Jessica Decoeur to learn more about the online social groups offered by our friends at Recreational Respite

 

What is Recreational Respite?

Recreation Respite is an organization that supports individuals across Canada with disabilities and mental health challenges. We provide various services and supports to all age groups, in different capacities. I think our main goal with Recreational Respite is to promote inclusion and connectivity and reduce isolation as much as possible. We aim to remove barriers to participation and promote social connectivity and inclusion through one-to-one support and/or group and virtual programs, in various communities across Canada.

What services do you provide in BC? Do they all take place online, or are some offered in person?

Our virtual programming is the most accessible service we provide in BC. We offer virtual group programs on a monthly basis for both the children and youth demographic, as well as young adults. Using Zoom, individuals can participate in various activities, which change from month to month on our calendars. Those are definitely our most accessible programs. With that being said, we also offer one-to-one support, both in-home and in-community in BC. However right now, due to the pandemic, as is the case with many nonprofits, we are experiencing a labor shortage. It’s becoming increasingly more difficult to find individuals who are the right fit for the one-to-one supports we offer. But with that being said, we do actually have active team members out in BC in many areas such as Mission, Abbotsford, Maple Ridge, Surrey, Langley, Squamish, and Prince George. So, if any individuals in your area are looking for one-to-one support in those regions, then we would absolutely be able to have a conversation and look at getting them set up. In terms of one-to-one support, if there are individuals who are really just looking for someone to talk to, we do offer that support in a virtual space as well. So, not just at home or in community, although some people are seeking that in-person connection. Sometimes it might just be a matter of jumping onto a Zoom call and that’s absolutely something that our recreational therapists offer here.

 

Recreational Respite’s: first VIRTUAL small group

What age groups do you serve?

For our one-to-one services, my colleague actually just told me that we are comparable to LEGO, for ages 0-99. So pretty much all age groups. Because recreation therapy is so based in play, we typically support people as young as eighteen months. This is just because that’s when more individuals would be involved in the play space. There’s really no age limit to how old an individual is that we can provide support to. For our virtual group programs (which were at one point community group programs, but now due to public health restrictions, we are very limited on what we can do in-person with groups), we have calendars that are focused on the children and youth demographic, as well as the young adults demographic. However, these are very adaptable to meet the needs of whoever is interested in joining our groups. We try to be as accessible as possible.

When do new monthly schedules come out?

For our virtual group calendars, we release two calendars on a monthly basis – one for children and youth and one for young adults. Generally, 16+ for young adults and under 16 for children and youth. We try to release our calendars anytime between the 15th and the 20th of the previous month. So, we’re actually just in the process of releasing our calendar for February. When our calendar is released to the public, the main way the public can gain access to them on a monthly basis is through our newsletter. We send out an e-blast to everyone who is registered with our newsletter. These have links to our virtual calendars, as well as registration forms, program descriptions, and any information you may need. Typically, people interested in participating in our programs will have anywhere between two weeks, give or take, to be able to input their registration and then they’ll get a confirmation email.

Chloe’s Friend Den’s ‬Cooking Club

Do you accept Autism Funding to access programs?

We are a direct service provider for children on the spectrum in BC. So, using personal autism funding is one way to cover the cost of our support and services. Also, in BC we work with Jordan’s Principle, CYSN, At Home, and, lastly, CKNW Foundation. Anybody can go onto our website under the “Find Us” tab and actually look at any province that they’re located in to be able to find more information about the specific supports and funding they can receive within their province. Because it does vary from province to province, as well as on a case-by-case basis. We always recommend people take a look at that part of our website and consult their individual caseworker to see if our supports are something that can be funded for you and your family.

Do you have young adult programs or autistic adult programs like Dungeons & Dragons?

In terms of young adults, we have our monthly calendar, which is catered to the young adult demographic. Individuals can join that at their leisure. There’s no real requirement because you joined one month, that you have to join for the next. You can join one program or you can join all of the programs, so it’s very adaptable to meet your needs and schedules, as well as your interests. We have a very active community in that demographic, which is wonderful! We also have, as something new to our calendar, our Dungeons & Dragons series, which is available to young adults who are beginners to D&D or interested in exploring it in a virtual space. For those who aren’t familiar with it, D&D is a fantasy-type game that individuals can play both in-person and virtually. We offer it for young adults who are both beginners, as well as more experienced or intermediate players. Then we also have a series of programs on our calendar which are related to movement and creativity – which could be anything from music to visual arts and creative writing. We have lots of different games programs which are very popular, as well as our skill-building workshops, which vary on a month-to-month basis. They are a series of programs that allow individuals to learn different skill sets. All of these programs are catered to our young adult community, and there really is no specific age at which these individuals can get involved. We’re always looking for new and exciting members to join us. We have team members with such varying skill sets all across Canada and we’re always open to setting up new niche programs.

A workshop on creating inclusive camp experiences for Free Spirit Tours in Collingwood!

Are any of the groups recurring with the same facilitators so that participants know what to expect?

We have our D&D series, as well as a series we offer on a monthly basis called the Friendship Bubble Circle, which is a lot of fun, as well as being very participant-led, with lots of conversation and activities. These two programs are offered by the same team member week after week. So, if individuals are looking for that sort of comfort, then these would be really suitable options for them. Additionally, all of our other programs are offered through our virtual TR team. It’s a pretty small group, with only about five or six different team members who deliver and facilitate these online groups. Once you get more acquainted in our virtual sessions, you kind of get to know our team members and tend to recognize them. Our invite emails, which are sent out to participants prior to the program running, outlines who the team member is that’s running the program. That way, they’ll be able to know ahead of time- “okay, this is who I can expect to be running this program that I’m signed up for.” We try to make it as comfortable a space as possible. Our programs on the young adults’ calendar have quite a few regulars who come back on a month-to-month basis. We have some participants in our programs who have built some great friendships.

What is your favorite program that you run?

There are so many exciting programs and they’re changing every month. I’m sure, months from now, there will be programs that I didn’t think I’d even see on the calendar. I would say a personal favorite, as well as the favorite of our community here at Recreational Respite, is the escape rooms. These are virtual escape rooms that are developed specifically for our programs. They’re so much fun and we have many themes. Everyone who gets involved with the escape room for that hour has to work together as a team to solve clues, as well as puzzles to be able to make it to the end and escape a certain scenario. We have a pretty wide range of different escape rooms, and they are just so much fun for all age groups! You can do it from the comfort of your own home and for anyone who may be apprehensive about joining a virtual group program, I think it’s important for them to know that we have new participants join all the time who maybe spend the first couple of programs observing. Maybe they keep their camera off, just use the chatbox or maybe they don’t say anything at all. It’s alright if they’re just checking what’s up and seeing what to expect, introduce themselves, and maybe they won’t get more engaged than that during the first couple of times they join a program. That’s perfectly okay! There’s never any pressure in our virtual group programs to engage right away. Our goal is to make things accessible and easy.

Where can we learn more about Recreational Respite, the groups you run, and other information?

Our Website: https://www.recrespite.com/  

Facebook: www.facebook.com/recreationalrespite/  

Instagram: www.instagram.com/recrespite/

Phone: 1-877-855-7070

Email: [email protected]

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