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Winter Challenges - How Does This Impact Our Families in Rural Hubs?

Winter - where do we begin?! The snowy season brings different challenges to some of our young people that we work with here at Perth Autism Support. End of term exhaustion, high social demand, changes to routines to name a few but the weather can also have an effect on our young people.


Icy pavements, windy and wet days can all lead to worries over falling, wet clothes and sensory issues with snow, having to change from our regular footwear to wellies - any of this sound familiar??


For those of us based in cities or more urban areas, there can also be issues with travelling in bad weather but this is further impacted for our families who live in more rural areas, including those in Perthshire. Our outreach service provides activities and services in HIghland Perthshire, Crieff and Blairgowrie and the wintry weather can mean that sometimes classes can't go ahead if we can't get staff to these areas (that's why it is so important we have volunteers who live in the specific areas and don't have to travel from our staff base - see the end of the blog for volunteering details!), but due to the challenge for our families of getting to Perth, these services are so important to our young people out with Perth City.


We asked some of our families in these areas to let us know what their thoughts are around the challenges that winter can bring:


Crieff

"Outreach in Crieff for me means that we are able to participate in PAS events. With two different pick up times from school in Crieff- we are unable to make Perth events. This is especially true in winter as driving conditions make travel times longer and, well- just not nice!"
The outreach service has been life changing for our whole family. Because both of our sons have additional needs, attending a group (especially in winter) in Perth wouldn’t really be possible...this may sound dramatic but they would currently struggle with the half hour (or more) car journey each way on top of the activity. I would also struggle with the journey as I would have to manage the two boys myself (while I usually have some support more locally. My husband would not be able to leave work in time to add the extra travel time and my mum also cares for my granny so while she can help for a short journey she couldn’t leave my granny for the duration of the longer journey and group).
The boys are currently unable to attend local sports or social groups due to their needs and so without the PAS outreach team the boys would have no access to activities with peers. This would be very isolating and seems unfair as neurotypical children are able to access groups locally.
Thanks for all your and your teams continued hard work!

"The outreach programme is vital to our family as we would be unable to access any PAS groups or services if they were only held in Perth. As is typical of Autistic children, school is exhausting so after school activities are very difficult. If we had to travel 30 minutes in the car to get to PAS then the same home again after groups, it would be too much to cope with and the disadvantages outweigh the positives. Our son is 7 and goes to bed by 7.30/8pm so we would still be travelling past bedtime. We wouldn't be able to keep to our nighttime routine. [He] also hates being in the car for long journeys. Outreach allows us to attend PAS groups a few minutes drive from our home. [He} has time to wind down after school, have his tea then take his time leaving the house as he won't be hurried. We can then return home and have precious time to ourselves which is a gift we hardly ever receive. We treat ourselves to a takeaway and relax at home while our son is happy at Outreach. We can also take time to bond with other parents at pick up time. If we were in Perth we would have to wait there for him to finish trying to find something to do to fill the time.
Specific to winter time we have the concern of icy roads, snow, driving in the dark. We could have unexpected bad weather whilst in Perth and still have to get home or we might find due to bad weather expectations we can't risk the drive through and have a very unhappy boy who finds his expected evening plans changed and he can't go to group.
Without PAS outreach we would be very isolated as a family. [Our son] hates going places and mostly stays at home thus we stay home too. It is great to have a break as parents and for [him] to spend time with other autistic kids in a safe, cared for environment. Meeting other parents is wonderful as we can share stories and understand each other in a way other parents can't do. Access to outreach training courses has been the highlight of my year. I have learned so much and enjoyed the group time with other parents and PAS staff. I couldn't have attended the courses in Perth due to school time and travelling and problems with my own health and mobility. "

Blairgowrie

"[My son] loves attending his clubs but during the winter we are all too aware that clubs may have to cease as short notice due to weather issues.
[He] can often display that he has adjusted to the short notice changes but when at home can become quite repetitive and talk about the same things over and over.
I personally feel that because we live rurally we miss out on opportunities for further engagement during the winter. As I work I would find it hard to get [my son] to Perth for other activities and would not feel safe during bad weather.
I would say however that the clubs [my son] does access are a great access point for him and helps him to engage with younger children too. The adults working within the clubs do a fantastic job and I am exceptionally grateful for their support."

"Couldn’t agree more that this time of year presents some new challenges. Christmas is such a social time and for most folk the parties are something to look forward to, however for Finn the social situations are where the challenges lie.
As a family we are therefore very grateful to PAS in providing a well supported programme of events in the lead up to Christmas, both in Perth and In Blairgowrie. The dark winter nights make the local activities very welcome and allow the building of skills for social interactions. The outreach services also provides familiar faces in perhaps unfamiliar local venues which ease future visits to these venues by families. The outreach programme also showcases PAS to local communities and extends their reach across P&K.
You all provide a fabulous service!! Thank YOU!"

What are your thoughts around winter conditions and the changes it brings? Comment below and let us know if you agree!


If you live in any of our outreach areas - Highland Perthshire, Crieff or Blairgowrie and would be interested in working within our activities supporting our wonderful young people, get in touch with Elaine and Anna on outreach@perthautismsupport.org.uk




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