Making GB an inclusive space


A Team Leader from a community group in the South East has adapted how her group works to make it more inclusive for girls and young women with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

Here she shares some of their story…

We have quite a few members with SEND – some are in mainstream education, and some are from special education settings. They’re in our 7-11s, 10-14s and 13-18s age groups. We’re in the process of taking on a helper too who has autism. It’s a good opportunity for her to show that she’s doing something in terms of volunteering so we’re trying to encourage punctuality and responsibility.

One of our 15-year-old members has a rare global developmental condition which means she has autistic traits, physical needs and is academically around the age of 6. But she has come to us every week since she was in the 7-11s age group. Normally she’s never out of her Mum’s sight, unless she’s at school, so it’s really good that she can come to us.

She was worried about having to leave GB soon now she’s getting older; she was stimming and agitated. We explained that you can stay when you’re older and help the younger members. So, we’re going to adapt the n:fluence 14-18s training materials to help her join in and work with our 4-8s group. She’s very caring and maternal so will be a great fit. We’re in the fortunate position that we have a lot of staff and so she won’t need to be a keyholder or take on lots of responsibility.

Adapting the group to suit the needs of your members is important and we did this for another young woman moving from the 7-11s age group to the 10-14s one. Her Mum wanted her to stay in the younger group because she thought the older programme would be beyond her, but we made some adaptations so she can do activities more suited to her needs. It’s good for her socially to be with her peers too. We also make sure that, as a group, we have fiddle toys and sensory toys around, for the girls that need them.

One of our 17-year-olds wanted to come to camp with us, but we knew she’d struggle. Her parents were expecting to come to pick her up, but she did the whole week of camp. She is autistic, has dyspraxia and is very loud and outspoken, but she was brilliant at camp. It was an excellent experience for her, and she’s asked to come next year already. Another one of our members has ADHD and heard about us because I worked with her Dad, so I knew the family well. She had a meltdown at camp but we were able to deal with it.

For camp we created a form for care plans and we ask the young people to fill it in if they need extra help and it asks things like what are they worried about, what can leaders help them with, and what makes things difficult for them. It means they have a say in how we work with them and we know in advance where they’ll need extra support. Camp is such a great opportunity for young people and we want them all to be able to come.

GB also helps SEND children and young people learn life skills and social expectations such as sharing and taking turns. My advice to groups with SEND members is to just get in there and build a relationship. There’s no need to be scared. Kindness and compassion are all the skills you need really.

All members, including leaders, benefit enormously from having children, young people and leaders with SEND in the group. It allows us all to accept inclusivity as the “norm” and teaches us all to embrace differences and develop our own qualities around kindness, tolerance, caring, and compromise.



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