In Funding Stories, Physical & mental health, wellbeing & safety

Project: Talkback provide sports packs to encourage people with learning disabilities and autism to increase their physical activity and fitness levels at home.  

Grant: £2,847.00

Fund: Bucks Coronavirus Stabilisation Fund 

Talkback launched in 1998 and are a charity focused on supporting people with learning disabilities. They strive to create an inclusive, professional setting that steers and challenges mainstream thinking about disability and autism. The Coronavirus pandemic had an extremely harsh impact on people with learning disabilities and autism as it severely disrupted their routine, which can cause severe anxiety and mental health issues.

Talkback sought to rectify this and bring back a sense of routine into the lives of their members. Their first response was to establish regular communication with their members over the phone and online. Within three weeks, they launched virtual sessions including dance, art, yoga, drama, and mindfulness, designed to raise physical activity levels whilst also alleviating loneliness and isolation.  Each session was 45-minutes long and ran three times a day, five days a week. Over three months, Talkback ran over 181 virtual sessions to 1,449 people, made 941 calls, held 44 one-to-one sessions, and facilitated 42 three-way calls..

They refused to let the pandemic stand in the way of all the good work and investment they had made in the people who need time, care, and patience to support, especially when many lost their other sources of support.

One of Talkbacks’s principal aims was to increase physical activity and fitness among those living with autism and learning difficulties, and with support from Heart of Bucks they were able to launch an initiative directly targeting this. They supplied sports packs to almost 100 of their member enabling them to get active, socialise, and have fun in the comfort of their own home and were designed so that they could be used inside and out, individually or with others. Each one included a set of activity cards with visuals to help get people started. Additionally, Talkback uploaded videos on to their YouTube channel, including cooking, yoga, and dancing videos.

Talkback supported one group of six young women by offering them virtual cheerleading sessions. Their ages ranged from 16-23, and each one had a variety of needs relating to their learning disabilities and autism. The charity was struggling to engage them with the sports activities being offered such as boot camp, yoga, and circuit training, as they were reluctant to participate as they found them ‘too hard’ ‘too boring and repetitive and did not want to exercise.

Not to be deterred, staff then asked them what they would like to do and eventually suggested cheerleading as an activity after the women expressed their interest in dance. For ten weeks, the ladies participated fully in a 45-minute session with lots of smiles and laughter, which began the positive change in the lady’s mindset and attitude. The key to this success was the Cheerleading coach using the group’s interest in Tik Tok and Tik Tok dances to gain initial engagement. Additionally, she asked the group each week for input on song choices and themes they would like to learn and dance to, giving the young women a sense of purpose and self-belief, whilst also developing fitness levels and creativity in a fun and exciting way.