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Short Breaks from SSAFA


hildren of Service personnel are once again offered the opportunity to make new friends and try exciting

adventure activities on one of SSAFAs Short Breaks. The Short Breaks Scheme is tailor-made for young people who have an additional need or disability and for their siblings and young carers.

Staffed by a dedicated team, including specially-trained volunteers, the breaks offer young people the opportunity to try activities, for example abseiling, horse-riding, kayaking and archery in a safe environment.

The Schemes aim is to build confidence as children make new friends and to try activities that might not usually be available to them. It also offers parents valuable respite, giving them the opportunity to spend time with their other children and recharge their batteries, safe in the knowledge that their child is being well cared for by the SSAFA team.

The Break for Siblings and Young Carers allows children who have a brother or sister with an additional need or disability to have some time away from their responsibilities and relax for a week. They are able to spend time with other children in the same situation and try a host of fun, adventure activities.

Ethan and Ryan

Rick Cooke is a helicopter crewman based at RAF Shawbury. He and his wife Heather have two sons, Ryan, 14, and Ethan, 9. Ethan has severe learning delays and autism. He has attended one of SSAFA’s Short Breaks for young people with a disability or additional need and Ryan has attended several of SSAFA’s Short Breaks for Siblings.

Rick said: “The aspects of Ethan’s behaviour that impact on his older brother Ryan have only become more apparent in recent years. Sometimes this impact on Ryan is not easily identifiable by parents, as teenagers can tend to bottle things up and not want to add to the pressure on the family. I think it’s really good that

46 Envoy Spring 2013

SSAFA gave him the opportunity to be himself and to forget about the pressure of living with his brother for a week. When I asked him ‘Did you talk much with your friends about the disabilities of their brothers and sisters?’ he said ‘No, not really’. It was just him being himself and not having to carry that baggage with him as well. He loved his outward bound activities as well and the nice thing is that over the years he was gradually given more responsibility on the breaks and really enjoyed that.

“Ethan has severe learning delays and is midway on the autistic spectrum but as he has grown physically and developed his vocal skills he is better able to interact with other people and express himself. However, he has a lack of social skills and doesn’t have any awareness of what is appropriate or when to back off. We have to barter with him as a family. He needs an incentive to do something and using those kind of negotiating skills as a carer can be difficult. He will not let go until his demands have been catered for which can be an exhausting process for the family as a whole. To have to make these continual accommodations is difficult but for Ryan as a teenager it’s particularly tough. The fact that he had the siblings’ holidays from an early age was great, and now that Ryan has grown older he can understand better that Ethan is that way and that’s the way it is.

“We applied for a place on a SSAFA Short Break when he had got to that age where we felt it

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