What are they?
Led by our volunteers, our workshops aim to teach children and young people about disability and chronic illnesses, and aim to encourage them to think about what they, as friends, could do to support a peer with such experiences. They can be adapted in length and content to suit different styles of learning and a wide range of ages.
In an average workshop we will work through a booklet and PowerPoint's which have been designed by our volunteers, many with chronic health conditions themselves, and reviewed by a number of leading UK charities. Our workshops aim to stimulate and provide plenty of opportunities for group work and discussion between classmates, and we really encourage students to use the opportunity to ask questions. Following our visits, we provide a list of follow-up tasks that students or the school can complete and a questions-and-feedback box, which we will use to respond to any questions.
Our workshops are designed by young people, for young people, and all of our volunteers who run them are under 25, many of them with chronic health problems themselves. Depending on group size, usually three volunteers will come to deliver the workshop, which allows them to circulate with the class, asking and answering questions.
Why are they important?
Friendships are important for all young people. Studies have found that children and young people rated friendships as one of the most important aspects in their life. Young people with disabilities and chronic health conditions are no different; friendships can improve both mental and physical health and be a gateway to allowing disabled young people to feel part of society. Yet research has found that young people with a disability were far less likely to have and sustain close friendships. Furthermore, studies have shown that many disabled young people feel lonely and experience bullying and abuse. There are numerous barriers young people with disabilities face when forming friendships including:
We found that there was a clear gap in disability education within school’s curriculum, particularly in the context of children and young people. As 8% of children and 19% of working age adults have a disability, this is not an uncommon issue within society. Through education, we aim to try and tackle prejudices and open the conversation about disability in young people.
We want to show that it's OK to ask questions and it's OK to talk about these topics. We hope to improve understanding and introduce people to ideas of how to be a supportive friend to someone with a disability.
We asked Mandy Dunbar, a physiotherapist and volunteer with the charity Destination Florida which takes 70 children with long term health conditions away to Florida for a trip of a lifetime, the following question:
Why is friendship support so important for those with a chronic illness or disability?
The question took me back 6 years to a Florida trip. I was working with one of the boys and there were a few other boys in the room at the same time chatting. I asked them what the best bit of the trip had been and I’m not going to lie, the answer floored me. I expected it to be ‘The Hulk’ or ‘Escape from Gringotts’ or ‘The Terminator' ride, but what I got back was something that I didn’t expect.
That was "being with other people with illnesses so that when you need help with something, you don’t feel guilty or you don’t feel like you're having to ask and be a burden on everyone else." And that kind of broke my heart, because the thought that any of our children had to feel guilty or burdensome at any point, just asking their mates to open a bottle of water for them, or to offer to carry a bag, or if you are using a wheelchair and you are going up a hill just to say ‘want a push?’ seemed really sad. So, I suppose my message is just be kind. It doesn’t really matter if someone has a long-term condition or not, just make things equal for everybody.
What do they look like?
Here is a sneak peak into our primary school workshop workbook...
Who are they for?
Our workshops are aimed at school aged children and young people between ages 10 – 16. We primarily conduct our workshops in a school setting, however we are also keen to hear from any other groups which cater for this age group such as Scouts, Guides, and Youth Groups.
Here is a sneak peak into our powerpoint on disablism that we use with older students...
How to get involved
Whether you are a young person or parent looking to have a LUNA workshop with your class, or a teacher interested in us coming into your school, we would love to hear from you! If you would like to conduct the workshop yourself we also have teacher resources which, upon request, we can send to you. You can drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out a form at the contact us section of our website and we will aim to get back to you as soon as possible.
The resources are great and will definitely help to raise some much needed awareness.
-Crohns and Colitis UK
I enjoyed finding out about and talking about disabilities and how to help my friends.
- P6 Pupil
These fit in excellently with the Health and Wellbeing goals of the Scottish curriculum as well as just better equipping school age children with an understanding of disability
- Susie Morgan, Deputy Head Teacher, South Morningside Primary
These are ace! You have really targeted the empathy and I love the case studies. I love that you recognise that some illnesses are not obvious but still exist.
- Tristan Holroyd, Head of KS3 at Guiseley School, Leeds
I enjoyed thinking about things I had never thought about before.
- P6 pupil, Mosshead Primary
1. Franklin, A., 2016. Friendship Opportunities For Disabled Children And Young People. [online] Childrenssociety.org.uk. Available at: <https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/sites/default/files/images/friendships-research-briefing.pdf> [Accessed 8 July 2020].
2. Scope. 2020. Disability Facts And Figures | Disability Charity Scope UK. [online] Available at: <https://www.scope.org.uk/media/disability-facts-figures/> [Accessed 8 July 2020].
3. Bullying.co.uk. 2020. Advice If Your Disabled Child Is Bullied - Family Lives. [online] Available at: <https://www.bullying.co.uk/advice-for-parents/advice-if-your-disabled-child-is-bullied/> [Accessed 8 July 2020].
4. GOV.UK. 2020. Government Concerned At 'Shocking' Evidence Of The Inaccessibility Of The British High Street To Disabled People, Despite Their £200 Billion Spending Power This Christmas. [online] Available at: <https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-concerned-at-shocking-evidence-of-the-inaccessibility-of-the-british-high-street-to-disabled-people-despite-their-200-billion-spending> [Accessed 8 July 2020].