In 2005 Mushroom Theatre Company and Equal People Performing Arts were lucky enough to be awarded some money to fund Performing Arts based holiday workshops for disabled children.
The funding we received enabled us to buy some sensory equipment, pay staff properly and make the days free to the children attending. As we needed to get the days up and running for the summer break, it was all hands to the deck to get the days advertised through the Special Schools and get the children along to MTC for a consultation appointment, at which time we were able to assess their needs and find out what sort of activities they enjoyed so that we could include these in their days.
It is all part of the planning process that the children should have a say in what takes place. After this we found that we were roughly half and a little over half fall on the 8 days we planned to run the workshops. At the same time we approached many of our staff and young people to see if they would like to get involved as buddies and helpers. The plan was to have lots of able-bodied peer group members acting as buddies to the children with disabilities to enable them to integrate socially and access the activities. 13 of our staff and buddies were given first aid training and 20 of us underwent training in Disability Awareness and Managing Challenging behaviour.
We were all set to go and the first two days were such a success that the subsequent 6 days got filled up and even the buddies who had booked to do a couple of days decided to do more. It was a wonderful 8 days, during which time a representative from the funding board visited and was very impressed and excited by what she had seen.
Many thanks to all the helpers and buddies, staff and volunteers who have taken part in this event and I see this as a wonderful addition the Mushroom activities.