Pilot ABI Scheme: November 2016
The road to the Calvert Reconnections programme has been a long one, years in fact. With such a ground-breaking approach to neuro-rehabilitation, we had to be sure that our idea was supported by both the academic evidence and also resonated with potential participants. To that end, back in 2016 we ran a pilot scheme comprising four distinct groups, all with ABI, undertaking a short course here at Calvert Trust so that we could garner feedback from both participants, clinical staff and our outdoor instructors. The aim of the programme was to aid recovery from stroke and brain injury though outdoor activities and occupational therapy.
The last of the pilot scheme courses took place in November 2016 and was made up of two instructors and four participants from a mixture of backgrounds, ranging in age from 18 – 55, both male and female. There was no history of a passion for the outdoors amongst participants, so it was a truly new experience for all of them. The course lasted four days, three nights. Morning sessions were dedicated to outdoor activities led by instructors while the afternoon sessions focussed on Occupational Therapy and were led by a qualified OT.
Matt, one of Calvert Trust’s experienced outdoor instructors talked about the course:
On arrival the OT held one to one ‘meet and greet’ sessions with each participant. This was followed by time to settle in, a site tour and everyone getting kitted out with all the necessary outdoor equipment. We finished the first evening with a night walk to Friar’s Crag, a lovely, gently walk with beautiful views across Derwentwater.
Day 1: Canoeing
We headed to Bassenthwaite Lake for a canoeing session. With superb weather, no wind and plenty of sun, initial nerves were quickly overcome helping to make this a very relaxing activity. The group took to two square rafts accompanied by a safety boat and began to gel well as a team – one participant in particular showed real aptitude at using the paddle very well with both hands without the use of any aids. The afternoon focussed on memory techniques and meditation in the sensory room. For some of the group, this was the first time they had tried mindfulness. They all found it very interesting and it helped them wind down after the morning activity. In hindsight this session proved to be overly long at the end of the first day – the recommendations from the instructors were to shorten this for future programme.
Day 2: Cycling
Today we headed up to Watchtree in Carlisle to try some cycling. We used two side by side bikes and to KMXs (3-wheel bike, recumbent bike). Cycling turned out to be a massive success as an activity – the group leaders were literally bowled by how well this activity went down with participants. The afternoon session once again focussed on memory games and techniques – however this was a shorter session which worked much better than day 1.
Day 3: Zip wire, climbing, protraction and abseil
This was another really successful activity. I think the group really liked being able to set their own challenge levels and objectives. Some participants were incredibly scared of heights at the start of the session but by the end had braved the zip wire! The afternoon was spent summing up the aims of the week – how could individuals take back learning from here and use and grow these skills in daily life – what clubs could they join at home that they may not have considered before?
As the last of the four pilot schemes, the instructors in charge felt this one was the most successful. The daily format worked really well giving people enough exercise in the morning that then helped provide content for discussion and reflection in the afternoons.The main challenge for the group leaders was for the instructors and clinical staff to find ways to work together. The nature of the two roles is really quite different; the clinical staff had relatively set formats and procedures while the instructors method of working has to be more flexible and laid back. These pilot short courses offered a glimpse into what might be possible for participants with ongoing support from both instructors and OTs and it really was very exciting to witness. The instructor we spoke to was in no doubt that a longer rehabilitation programme built on the same principles would be incredibly interesting to work on and had no doubts that there would be long term benefits for participants.
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